Democracy Through Time


1780-1800

1782     Thomas Jefferson

While we have land to labor then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench, or twirling a distaff. Carpenters, masons, smiths, are wanting in husbandry: but, for the general operations of manufacture, let our work-shops remain in Europe. The loss by transportation of commodities across the Atlantic will be made up in happiness and permanence of government.
-- "Manufactures," Notes on the State of Virginia

1820-1840

1832     Alexis de Tocqueville

I think that, generally speaking, the manufacturing aristocracy which we see rising before our eyes is one of the hardest that have appeared on earth. But at the same time, it is one of the most restrained and least dangerous. In any event, the friends of democracy should keep their eyes anxiously fixed in that direction. For if ever again permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy make their way into the world, it will have been by that door that they enter.
-- Democracy in America

1840-1860

1844     Karl Marx

The more productive the capital grows, the more the division of labour and the application of machinery expands. The more the division of labour and the application of machinery expands, the more competition among the workers expands and the more their wages contract. Within a capitalistic society, Machinery is intended to cheapen commodities, and, by shortening that portion of the working-day, in which the labourer works for himself, to lengthen the other portion that he gives, without an equivalent, to the capitalist.
-- The Marx-Engels Reader, Robert Tucker, ed.

1860-1880

1876     David A. Wells

Like one of our mighty rivers its movement is beyond control. All efforts at control would, like the construction of piers and deposits of sunken wrecks, simply deflect the current or constitute a temporary obstruction. The destruction of what has once been wealth often marks a greater step in progress of civilization than any great increase in material accumulation.
-- written in First Century of the Republic

1880-1900

1887     Edward Bellamy

In a word, the people of the United States concluded to assume the conduct of their own business, just as one hundred odd years before tehy had assumed the conduct of their own government, organizing now for industrial purposes on precisely the same ground that they had then organized for political purposes. At last, strangely late in the world's history, the obvious fact was perceived that ... To entrust [business] to private persons to be managed for private profit is a folly similar in kind, though vastly greater in magnitude, to that of surrendering the functions of political government to kings and nobles to be conducted for their personal glorification.
-- Looking Backward, 1887-2000
Bellamy's futuristic vision of America surviving the technology

1920-1940

1932     Aldous Huxley

Our Ford himself did a great deal to shift the emphasis from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness. Mass production demanded the shift. Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can't.... People still went on talking about truth and beauty as though they were the soverign gods. Right up to the time of the Nine Years' War. That made them change their tune all right. What's the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when the anthrax bombs are dropping all around you? That was when science first began to be controlled -- after the Nine Years' War. People were ready to have even tehri appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We've gone on controlling ever since. It hasn't been very good for truth, of course. But it's been good for happiness.
-- controller Mustafa Mand in Brave New World

1940-1960

1946     Aldous Huxley

The result [of atomic power], pretty obviously, will be a series of economic and social changes unprecedented in rapidity and completeness. All the existing patterns of human life will be disrupted and new patterns will have to improvised to conform with the nonhuman fact of atomic power. Procrustes in modern dress, the nuclear scientist will prepare the bed on which mankind must lie; and if mankind doesn't fit -- well, that will be just too bad for mankind.
-- foreward to the 1946 edition of A Brave New World

1960-1980

1964     Jacques Ellul

Technique as a general phenomenon always gives rise to an aristocracy of technicians who guard secrets to which no outsider has access.... Economic life, not in its content but in its direction, will henceforth entirely elude popular control. No democracy is possible in the face of a perfected economic technique....Men ar eunable to exert genuine influence on the direction of the economy. They can change certain modalities of wages. They can alter the direction of enterprise and intervene in certain economic forms to compensate for certain mechanicl drawbacks; and they can give opinions on fabrication, procedures, and financial methods. None of these is neglible.... But they don not add up to economic democracy.
-- The Technological Society

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