Philosopher Peter Singer on global capitalism and revolution

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The French Revolution was both bloody and world-altering enough that it is still inspiring new books today. More recently, the Cuban revolution showed how socialist idealism can devolve into dictatorship. In both cases, many innocent civilians lost their lives in pursuit of a greater cause. Yet a utilitarian like Singer—judging actions by their collective impact on all living things over time—says that even those messy revolutions may be justifiable. “The question is, do they have to go wrong? Is it inevitable? Is it part of human nature that they go wrong?” he asks. “Maybe in spite of all the bloodshed and things that went wrong, the revolution did lead to the spread of greater equality, of civil rights, of the rule of law throughout Europe. And that was undoubtedly a good thing. Chou En Lai was famously asked whether he thought the French revolution was a good thing and he said ‘It’s too early to tell.’ I’d be prepared to hazard a guess and say it was a good thing.”

pub. 10/2016

 

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