Bertrand Russell on Economics and Finance : Sunday’s Quotes


Being immensely rich, he can endow universities, and secure that the most influential part of academic opinion shall be subservient to him. Being at the head of the plutocracy, he is the natural leader of all those whose political thought is dominated by fear of Communism. Being the possessor of economic power, he can distribute prosperity or ruin to whole nations as he chooses.

It is a remarkable fact that, in spite of the importance of economics to every man, woman, and child, the subject is almost never taught in schools and even in universities is learnt by a minority. Moreover, that minority do not learn the subject as it would be learnt if no political interests were at stake. There are a few institutions which teach it without plutocratic bias, but they are very few; as a rule, the subject is so taught as to glorify the economic status quo.

Finance, like war, suffers from the fact that almost all those who have technical competence also have a bias which is contrary to the interest of the community.

When Disarmament Conferences take place, the naval and military experts are the chief obstacle to their success. It is not that these men are dishonest, but that their habitual preoccupations prevent them from seeing questions concerning armaments in their proper perspective.

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

Exactly the same thing applies to finance. Hardly anybody knows about it in detail except those who are engaged in making money out of the present system, who naturally cannot take wholly impartial views. It will be necessary, if this state of affairs is to be remedied, to make the democracies of the world aware of the importance of finance, and to find ways of simplifying the principles of finance so that they can be widely understood. It must be admitted that this is not easy, but I do not believe that it is impossible.

One of the impediments to successful democracy in our age is the complexity of the modern world, which makes it increasingly difficult for ordinary men and women to form an intelligent opinion on political questions, or even to decide whose expert judgment deserves the most respect. The cure for this trouble is to improve education, and to find ways of explaining the structure of society which are easier to understand than those presently in vogue. Every believer in effective democracy must be in favour of this reform.

–Bertrand Russell, “In Praise of Idleness” (1932), pp. 79-81.

Bertrand Russell was British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic and political activist of the 20th century.

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