A later realization – I suppose I have sensed it most of my life, but I have understood it philosophically only during the preparation of this talk – has been the beauty of the idea of the pursuit of happiness. Familiar words, easy to take for granted; easy to misconstrue. The idea of the pursuit of happiness is at the heart of the attractiveness of the civilization to so many outside it or on its periphery. I find it marvelous to contemplate to what an extent, after two centuries, and after the terrible history of the earlier part of this century, the idea has come to a kind of fruition. It is an elastic idea; it fits all men. It implies a certain kind of society, a certain kind of awakened spirit. I don’t imagine my father’s parents would have been able to understand this idea. So much is contained in it; the idea of the individual, responsibility, choice, the life of the intellect, the idea of a vocation and perfectibility 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.
V.S. Naipaul, “Our Universal Civilization” (1992) in The Writer and the World.