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Norman Angell (1872 – 1967)


British economist, lecturer, writer, Member of Parliament for the Labour Party, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933; born Ralph Norman Angell Lane.
Norman Angell
In the modern world, material is only wealth if you can get rid of it. The British miner cannot eat his coal, nor clothe his children with it, nor build his house with it. If coal is to mean for the British miner food and shelter and clothing, he must get rid of it. Get rid of it, that is, to someone who has money, sell it. But how is that someone to get money? He can only get it by one means: By getting rid of his material to someone who has money, who can only get money by getting rid of his material — round the world.
Angell quotes
What are the fundamental motives that explain the present rivalry of armaments in Europe, notably the Anglo-German ? Each nation pleads the need for defence; but this implies that someone is likely to attack, and has therefore a presumed interest in so doing. What are the motives which each State thus fears its neighbors may obey?
They are based on the universal assumption that a nation, in order to find outlets for expanding population and increasing industry, or simply to ensure the best conditions possible for its people, is necessarily pushed to territorial expansion and the exercise of political force against others.... It is assumed that a nation's relative prosperity is broadly determined by its political power; that nations being competing units, advantage in the last resort goes to the possessor of preponderant military force, the weaker goes to the wall, as in the other forms of the struggle for life.
The author challenges this whole doctrine. He attempts to show that it belongs to a stage of development out of which we have passed that the commerce and industry of a people no longer depend upon the expansion of its political frontiers; that a nation's political and economic frontiers do not now necessarily coincide; that military power is socially and economically futile, and can have no relation to the prosperity of the people exercising it; that it is impossible for one nation to seize by force the wealth or trade of another — to enrich itself by subjugating, or imposing its will by force on another; that in short, war, even when victorious, can no longer achieve those aims for which people strive....
Angell
The convictions of the multitudes — and on certain points like the desirability of organizing the world on a nationalist basis there is overwhelming agreement — are sincere convictions. They are, as we know, sometimes disastrously erroneous; but they are also disastrously honest. The Nationalisms, the Protectionisms, the Mercantilisms and all the other fallacies which rack Europe and create the chaos are sincerely held fallacies. They are, to these multitudes, the truth, and the prophet who denies them shall be stoned.




Angell Norman quotes
The conception that we can only protect ourselves if we are prepared to protect others surely ought to belong to the nursery stage of social education.
But such things as the mechanism of security through law, the place of force in society, are things not, it would seem, included usually in the common education of our peoples.
Angell Norman
We use power, of course, in the international fields in a way which is the exact contrary to the way in which we use it within the state. In the international field, force is the instrument of the rival litigants, each attempting to impose his judgment upon the other. Within the state, force is the instrument of the community, the law, primarily used to prevent either of the litigants imposing by force his view upon the other. The normal purpose of police — to prevent the litigant taking the law into his own hands, being his own judge — is the precise contrary of the normal purpose in the past of armies and navies, which has been to enable the litigant to be his own judge of his own rights when in conflict about them with another.
Norman Angell quotes
The Great Illusion in its turn created certain illusions in those who read the book superficially (or who only heard about it). Because Norman Angell had proved war to be foolish, to be a bad business proposition, many believed that he had said there would be no more war in Europe. Against this misinterpretation Norman Angell at once protested with the greatest heat. He asked: "Why then do I pursue my fight against war?" Indeed, why should pacifists continue their frequently thankless and unpopular work if they believe that war will never occur any more? Rational people do not try to break down an open door.
Norman Angell
Our daily life is no longer cursed by fear of those pestilences, plagues, black deaths, which used to devastate Europe. The layman has abolished those plagues by using the medical expert's knowledge. The medical expert has said in effect, "There are not many things that we are agreed upon, but at least we are agreed upon this: that though we cannot cure bubonic plague or cholera, we can prevent them, for we know that they are caused by microorganisms transmitted through water and vermin. Keep sewage from your drinking water and vermin from your homes, and you will prevent these plagues." The layman has seen the point, applied appropriate measures, and these dreadful pestilences have disappeared.
Now, if our publics these last twenty years could have grasped certain social truths, not inherently more difficult to understand than the microbic theory of disease, a large part at least of the economic and political pestilences which have come upon us in our generation would not have arisen.
Angell Norman quotes
The obstacles to peace are not obstacles in matter, in inanimate nature, in the mountains which we pierce, in the seas across which we fly. The obstacles to peace are in the minds and hearts of men.
In the study of matter we can be honest, impartial, true. That is why we succeed in dealing with it. But about the things we care for — which are ourselves, our desires and lusts, our patriotisms and hates — we find a harder test of thinking straight and truly. Yet there is the greater need. Only by intellectual rectitude and in that field shall we be saved. There is no refuge but in truth, in human intelligence, in the unconquerable mind of man.
Angell
The elaborate financial interdependence of the modern world has grown up in spite of ourselves. Men are fundamentally just as disposed as they were at any time to take wealth that does not belong to them. But their relative interest in the matter has changed.
In very primitive conditions robbery is a moderately profitable enterprise. Where the rewards of labor are small and uncertain, and where all wealth is portable, the size of a man’s wealth depends a good deal on the size of his club and the agility with which he wields it. But to the man whose wealth so largely depends upon his credit, dishonesty has become as precarious and profitless as honest toil was in more primitive times. The instincts of the City man may at bottom be just as predatory as those of the robber baron, but taking property by force has been rendered impossible by the force of commercial events.
Angell Norman
Let us face squarely the paradox that the world which goes to war is a world, usually, genuinely desiring peace. War is the outcome, not mainly of evil intentions, but on the whole, of good intentions which miscarry or are frustrated. It is made, not usually by evil men knowing themselves to be wrong, but is the outcome of policies pursued by good men usually passionately convinced that they are right.
Norman Angell
One cannot take up a leading article in even the foremost papers dealing with foreign relations, without finding it assumed that European governments have the instincts of savages and the foresight of cattle-lifters. Are we to assume that the governments of the world, which presumably are directed by men as farsighted as bankers, are permanently to fall below the banker in their conception of enlightened self-interest?




Norman Angell quotes
War has no longer the justification that it makes for the survival of the fittest; it involves the survival of the less fit. The idea that the struggle between nations is a part of the evolutionary law of man's advance involves a profound misreading of the biological analogy.
The warlike nations do not inherit the earth; they represent the decaying human element....
Norman Angell
Our evils are due mainly to the failure to apply to our international relationships knowledge which is of practically universal possession, often self-evident in the facts of daily life and experience.
Angell quotes
He has a profound and warm belief in what he calls in one of his books "the potential rationalism of mankind". Let us hope that his optimism may be vindicated.
Angell Norman
Now, please don't misunderstand me. When I point out that all our wars for a thousand years have been fought in other people's countries, I do not mean that any of these wars was necessarily aggressive. They may well have been, everyone of them, defensive. But plainly they were not defensive of soil, territory. Of what then were they defensive? They were defensive of the nation's interests, rights; interests which may well collide with the interests of other nations in any part of the world ... Nations do so differ as to what their respective rights are and differ sincerely. And often the question, which of the two is right, is extremely difficult, as anyone who has attempted to disentangle rival territorial claims in the Balkans or elsewhere knows only too well.
Angell Norman quotes
As an Englishman, particularly as an Englishman standing upon foreign soil, I am, of course, prepared to argue that every war we have ever fought was a purely defensive war. But I am obliged to take cognizance of the quite simple historical fact that for about one thousand years, since the time indeed when Norwegians ravaged our coasts and a certain Scandinavian landed at Hastings in 1066, every war we have fought happens to have been fought in other people's countries.
Now if defense means merely keeping burglars out of the house, what were we doing on all those occasions in other people's houses?
Our history in this respect is not peculiar. The United States is proud of her remoteness from the old world, her freedom from entanglement in its quarrels, her isolation. Yet in her relatively very short history as an independent state she has fought at least six foreign wars while her troops have landed on foreign soil on nearly a hundred occasions. Not one of those wars was for the purpose of defending American soil.
Norman Angell
The economic difficulty of the modern world is not shortage of materials but the organization of their exchange and distribution; distress arises, not from scarcity but from dislocation and maladjustment.
Norman Angell quotes
So long as an individual, whether person or state, has only his own arms to depend upon in order to defend his rights by arms, then he must be stronger than anyone likely to challenge those rights. Which means that that other is deprived of similar defense. Within the frontiers man long ago made the discovery that the only way out of that dilemma is for the community, by putting its combined power behind a protective law, to assume the defense of the individual. Defense must be a communal, a collective function, or it cannot exist effectively at all.
Norman Angell
Within the state we have made defense of the individual the obligation of the whole community, and by that fact have established such preponderance of power on the side of the law that it could never be good business to challenge it. And that fact has, in large measure, swept highwaymen from the roads and pirates from the seas.
Angell Norman
I would not hesitate to say that nine out of ten of the critics of the peace movement get the argument turned upside down. "You cannot change human nature" has become a sort of incantation with those critics. Perhaps you cannot "change human nature" — I don't indeed know what the phrase means. But you can certainly change human behavior, which is what matters, as the whole panorama of history shows.


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