The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, by Ursula K. Le Guin

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How much is your personal happiness worth? How much individual suffering will you tolerate to ensure social harmony? How much environmental degradation and how many foreign wars will you tolerate to maintain your standard of living? If just one person had to suffer in order to keep you and your family sated and satisfied, would that be an acceptable price? Ursula K. Le Guin’s all-too topical short story of scapegoating and willful blindness was first published in 1973.

Le Guin was inspired by a quotation from an address by pioneering psychologist William James from 1891:

Or if the hypothesis were offered us of a world in which Messrs. Fourier’s and Bellamy’s and Morris’s utopias should all be outdone, and millions kept permanently happy on the one simple condition that a certain lost soul on the far-off edge of things should lead a life of lonely torture, what except a specifical and independent sort of emotion can it be which would make us immediately feel, even though an impulse arose within us to clutch at the happiness so offered, how hideous a thing would be its enjoyment when deliberately accepted as the fruit of such a bargain?

Those Who Walk Away From Omelas, by Ursula K. Le Guin {19:37}

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