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I began my first column of the year with a brief extract from a book, Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, which for me defines an essential mental hurdle on the path to thinking about political and social change. “We will never have a perfect world,” Pinker observes, “and it would be dangerous to seek one.”

Given how much is said to (and, doubtless, often does) ride on confronting and reversing imperfections — racism, inequality, state abuse, environmental degradation, tyrannical fundamentalism, corporate greed, corruption, erosion of the rule of law, to mention just some of the more prominent themes of popular argument about policy-making — Pinker’s insight may seem dispiriting to the more ardent devotees of one or another course of corrective action...

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