“My Fundamental Beliefs”

Annotated peace placard. June 9, 1957.

1. I believe that the greatest problem facing us today is the problem of preserving peace between nations. I believe that war is the greatest danger facing the United States of America. I believe that one service that I can render the Nation is to point out to my fellow citizens, on the basis of my background of experience and knowledge, that war is a great danger to the Nation, and that it is important for the citizens of the country to work for peace. I fear that a devastating war, with modern weapons, would mean the end of the United States as a great nation, whether she emerged the victor or vanquished. My beliefs about war and peace come close to coincidence to those of the Society of Friends, as expressed in their Quaker Proposals for Peace.

2. I believe that it is of the greatest importance that representative democracy be preserved in the United States of America, and I have noted with much concern symptoms of its deterioration. It is not enough to preserve the secret ballot; it is also necessary that the individual citizen have access to information, and that he have the benefit of the opinions of his fellow citizens. I think that the principle upon which a true democratic system operates is that no single man is wise enough to make the correct decisions about the very complex problems that arise, and that the correct decisions are to be made by the process of averaging the opinions of all the citizens in the democracy. If some opinions are suppressed, then the average that is obtained is the wrong one. It seems to me evident that the operation of the democratic system requires that everyone have the right to express his opinion about political questions, no matter what the opinion might be. I have had personal experiences … that violate the fundamental principle of our democratic system of government. I am much disturbed by these attacks on our fundamental democratic system of government in the United States, and I feel that it is important for every citizen to work to preserve our democracy.

3. I believe in the rights of man, as expressed in the Constitution of the United States, the teachings of Christ, and in other moral and ethical documents. I am opposed to slavery, oppression, exploitation, and discrimination. I believe that the rights of the individual, as generally accepted, have been increasing with the passage of time, and that in general the individual has greater protection in the United States and other countries at the present time than during preceding centuries. However, many violations of the rights of individuals still occur, and, moreover, the progress that has been made has resulted from vigorous effort exerted by people with strong social and ethical convictions. I think that it is my duty as a citizen to work for the preservation and improvement of these fundamental principles of our system of government.

4. I believe that the salvation of the world lies in the acceptance of the highest ethical principles. I believe that there would be peace and happiness in the world if right and justice, rather than self-interest, were to determine the policy of man toward his fellow men and of nations toward other nations. I have striven in my personal life to adhere to the highest moral and ethical principles, and to set an example for my children and students. I believe that the United States of America should behave toward other nations, not in a completely selfish, nationalistic way, but in a way compatible with the principles of the Christian religion. I am sure that if we were to act in accordance with the principle ‘We believe in justice, and in the right, for people in other countries of the world as well as in our own, and we place these principles above material self-interest,’ a solution could be found of the terrible problem of impending world war.

-Linus Pauling, 1951

Linus Pauling with baby Naomi Epel, April 1951.

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