From V. S. Naipaul, “Our Universal Civilization,” in The Writer and the World (2002):
This idea of the pursuit of happiness is at the heart of the attractiveness of civilization to so many outside or on its periphery. It is an elastic idea: it fits all men. It implies a certain kind of society, a certain kind of awakened spirit. So much is contained in it: the idea of the individual, responsibility, choice, the life of the intellect, the idea of vocation and perfectability and achievement. It is an immense human idea. It cannot be reduced to a fixed system. It cannot generate fanaticism. But it is known to exist; and because of that, other more rigid systems in the end blow away.
An earlier version of this essay, delivered at the Manhattan Institute in 1990, is here.