Skip to comments.Technology in America
Posted on 04/14/2012 11:23:41 AM PDT by neverdem
If Americas ongoing experiment in democracy and economic freedom is to endure, we will need to think again about cultivating the necessary habits of the heart and resisting the allure of the ideology of technology.
Why are Americans addicted to technology? The question has a distinctly contemporary ring, and we might be tempted to think it could only have been articulated within the last decade or two. Could we, after all, have known anything about technology addiction before the advent of the Blackberry? Well, as it turns out, Americans have a longstanding fascination and facility with technology, and the question of technology addiction was one of the many Alexis de Tocqueville thought to answer in his classic study of antebellum American society, Democracy in America.
To be precise, Tocqueville titled the tenth chapter of volume two, “Why The Americans Are More Addicted To Practical Than To Theoretical Science.” In Tocqueville’s day, the word technology did not yet carry the expansive and inclusive sense it does today. Instead, quaint sounding phrases like “the mechanical arts,” “the useful arts,” or sometimes merely “invention” did together the semantic work that we assign to the single word technology.1 “Practical science” was one more such phrase available to writers, and, as in Tocqueville’s case, “practical science” was often opposed to “theoretical science.” The two phrases captured the distinction we have in mind when we speak separately of science and technology.
To answer his question on technology addiction, Tocqueville looked at the political and economic characteristics of American society and what he took to be the attitude toward technology they encouraged. As we’ll see, much of what Tocqueville had to say over 150 years ago resonates still, and it is the compelling nature of his diagnosis that invites us to reverse...
(Excerpt) Read more at american.com ...
Technology allows progressives to exist. A friend of mine coined the phrase “the Thin Chrome Line” to denote the thin veneer of tech that gives us our comforts that we take for granted. Progressives don’t exist in a world where people have to work to eat on a daily basis, but a world with refrigerators, supermarkets, dishwashers, etc can handle a certain amount of people who survive on the labors of others because there is so much abundance due to technology.
Of course, being dumb progs, they hate some technologies: power, transportation, weapons while mindlessly turning on the lights, hopping in the SUV for a trip to the store, or living peacefully under the umbrella of men with guns.
Progs are parasites on a technological civilization because the only way to make them see the truth is to turn off the conveniences, and those of us who understand and work to make that tech civilization happen aren’t ready to go back to the pre-industrial world just to make some juvenile crybabies wake up and see reality.
Its too bad that we can’t make them put their money where their mouth is. If they don’t like burning fossil fuels for power, pull their power meter. If they don’t like treated sewage (aka water) dumped into the river, turn off their water. If they don’t like gasoline, take the tags off their cars. Let them live in the dark, drink rain water, and bicycle everywhere for a month and there will be no more progs.
Lol, I’ve always thought the as,e. Ironically, liberals exist because of capitalism.
Liberalism exist because of the free time and resources that have been generated by Capitalism coupled with the tax- oppressive government that exists soley to pander to leeches who can vote. In a more aggressive and resource-restricted world, these liberals would become extinct.
Good points, bump for late reading.
Even earlier, American were seeing the necessity of pairing the teaching of the ideas essential to liberty to rising generations, along with those of new discoveries in science and technology. Jefferson was, of course, one of those wise intellectual leaders.
The Pope's recent Easter message also addressed these things.
Then, there was Thomas Paine of "Give me liberty, or give me death" fame, who made the following observation critical of the education of youth in France. One can imagine what he might say about what is called "education" in America today.
"Thomas Paine on "The Study of God"
Delivered in Paris on January 16, 1797, in a Discourse to the Society of Theophilanthropists" - (Source)
"It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.
"When we examine an extraordinary piece of machinery, an astonishing pile of architecture, a well executed statue or a highly finished painting where life and action are imitated, and habit only prevents our mistaking a surface of light and shade for cubical solidity, our ideas are naturally led to think of the extensive genius and talents of the artist. When we study the elements of geometry, we think of Euclid. When we speak of gravitation, we think of Newton. How then is it, that when we study the works of God in the creation, we stop short, and do not think of God? It is from the error of the schools in having taught those subjects as accomplishments only, and thereby separated the study of them from the Being who is the author of them. . . ."
"The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence. They labor with studied ingenuity to ascribe everything they behold to innate properties of matter; and jump over all the rest, by saying that matter is eternal."
One may agree, or disagree, with Paine, but how might his analysis of the past several decades of education in America be different from this 200+-year-old statement?
America's Founders' Declaration of Independence and Constitution were formed on a foundation of Creator-endowed individual life, liberty, and rights. This was the foundation of education for citizenship in their view.
Removing their concept of the Source of individual liberty from textbooks and schools may have been what might be called government's one successful undertaking in education; but is America a more free and prosperous nation than when young minds could be exposed to such ideas and trusted to make their own decisions?
"The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." - Thomas Jefferson
We must remember that the Founders left us what John Quincy Adams and others described as a "democratic republic," because they deliberately rejected ideas of a "pure democracy," which, in their view had been unsuccessful for liberty throughout history.
In 2008, Michael Ledeen, on another subject altogether, wrote of the degree to which Americans have been "dumbed down" on some basic ideas underlying our freedom:
Ledeen said, "Our educational system has long since banished religion from its texts, and an amazing number of Americans are intellectually unprepared for a discussion in which religion is the central organizing principle."
In the Pope's speech in Germany a few years ago, he observed:
"A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."
Liberals are Luddites. That is why they oppose man, his machinery, and anything modern.
“Give me liberty, or give me death” is attributed to Patrick Henry.
Not really. Capitalism exists mostly due to technology too. Without the means to create abundance and free time, there is no way for unlanded people to create wealth for themselves.
Capitalism without technology more like feudalism. Unfortunately, too much technology and capitalism comes full circle back to feudalism, which is where we are today (or nearly there). Tech allows an industry to create wealth with minimal labor. The labor it does need can be easily threatened and devalued until people labor for subsistence, which ironically empowers progressives to think that they are necessary to speak for the “exploited” laborers.
It seems to me its corruption that leads to feudalism. In a highly capitalistic society the successful will be emulated by the up-and-comers who will have more incentive due to their struggles. The successful tend to rest on their laurels. If we had a government that was less corrupt and not pass laws that protect the successful from competition due to cronyism, competition would move in to even things out between the successful and those that are struggling.
It was the cronies like JP Morgan that paved the way for the Federal Reserve system that has created the endless business cycle that protects those that want no competition. That was their reason for creating the Federal Reserve system, to keep the competition down by creating a class of people always in need of handouts from the government that will vote in the ninety-percentile range for anti-capitalistic laws.
We do need to reform our ways of doing things, but not in an uncapitalistic manner. We need massive reforms to our tax system, land-ownership system, and voting system to enact the laws that will lead to more competition so the middle and lower income classes can move up in the system if they have the drive, no doubt about that.
Of course its corruption that leads to feudalism. The government, with the cooperation of banking and industry (or is the other way around?), set the stage for creating the serf class. The greatest corruption of all is a system where the elite minority of people in power can control the masses. That is the most anti-American thing there is. Preventing that is the reason for our country’s existence.
For a century, technology has made people’s lives eaasier and no one really minded those who were squeezed out of the job market by automation, because the numbers we so small and the benefits of reduced costs were so great.
But, now, we’ve hit a critical point where there aren’t enough consumers left to sustain the jobs. Each month, more people fall off the employment rolls and onto the government dole. Small businesses close and new ones don’t replace them these days.
The progs are counting on this to create a demand for communism. The capitalists are counting on this to create a labor market that is desperate for any work and will accept any terms for a paycheck.
Fortunately, technology will enable us the accept either solution because we’ve become denizens of the virtual world. I think that as long people can replace their TV, laptop, and smart phone regularly (and afford or recieve free the services required to use them), they will accept just about any form of serfdom. The people under 30 live in those three devices and many people over 30 do as well. With some effort, I think the elites could convince the masses that they don’t need material possessions or real-life experiences as long as the virtual goods and experiences are emotionally fulfilling.
If they can pull that off, Americans will become the happiest slaves in history.
In the mean time, be sure to check out "Understanding Media" by McCluhan, because he pretty much explains the whole thing there.
and lets all be sure to reflect on this in light of your post and reply count here at FR!
Again, I don't think that's a product of capitalism, but of corruption. We have the highest corporate taxes of the industrialized world and a government that rewards people for not working. The party of corrupt cronyism, the Democratic Party, has given us this for the most part. We need major reforms in tax policy, land ownership policy, and voting policy to get back to a point where 50% of the people are not slaves to the other 50%, as the working people are now. There will always be projects to work on and things to spend money on, the trouble is our corrupt laws cause us to spend way too many resources on simple things. We haven't been moving forward technologically for the last several decades. The technological landscape has not changed much since the coming of the Federal Reserve. PCs and the internet is about it. The Federal Reserve put a halt to everything and we have been slaves to the cronies that brought on the Federal Reserve ever since. They purposely keep us stuck in 1910's technology. Our technological landscape should resemble Star Wars rather than WW1.
Indeed, progs hate their own families because you have to either take care of them or show that you can take care of yourself without them taking care of you. As a results the self hate that progs cultivate goes not only against the family but against the very technology and science they claim they love. Thus, as atheists, only them are allowed to reject science and practice susperstition.
>>Again, I don’t think that’s a product of capitalism, but of corruption. We have the highest corporate taxes of the industrialized world and a government that rewards people for not working.
It is the corruption, but it isn’t just government corruption. There are a lot of factions at work, with each lobbying the other to create power and wealth for a few and to devalue labor and disempower the people.
One thing to remember about the “highest corporate taxes in the world”: coprorations pass the cost of doing business on to the consumer. Those costs include taxes. Those highest corporate taxes are just a consumption tax on the people.
The idea that the government rewards people who don’t work is an old mindset. It does reward the career welfare-collector, but there are millions of Americans out of work who can’t get a job because those jobs aren’t out there anymore. But the corps are happy with this because the gov has stepped in and is giving them money to keep on being consumers. This is just a transfer of fiat currency from the Fed to the corps and back to the government. This is why so many elite and large corporations supported ObamaCare. They love big government. They are allies. That is corruption of the highest order.
"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in altered forms, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation, distinguished the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away; all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind. The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere."
The Communist Manifesto (London: SoHo, 2010, page 21)
The jobs would be there if the corruption were to be cut out. We haven’t had a capitalistic economy for quite some time, and it shows with the decreases in living standards and employment. The government uses their tax fraud and environmental fraud to keep the working man down to where a lot of his income goes to nonproductive ends in the form of regulation, taxes, high government worker salaries, etc. Get this country back to a capitalistic society by limiting the influence of government and its allies and the jobs would return and we would get back to a much higher standard of living for all. We saw it in the 90s...when a lot less people were on the welfare roles thanks to the Republican Revolution, unemployment went way down. There is always work for people, they will spend the money they have and without a corrupt government not stifling the competitive economy, it will raise all ships. The jobs are there, nothing has changed since the 80s and 90s, except the percentage of the national debt which may lead to an unpleasant “reset”, but that’s not the fault of capitalism, its the fault of Obama’s hyper socialism.
Thanks, neverdem. Interesting article, interesting thread.
Those ingenious Yankees: http://www.amazon.com/ingenious-Yankees-Joseph-Gies/dp/0690011504
Excellent book and a must read for Americans young and old. We cannot afford to forget our pragmatic, entrepreneurial, inventive history.
Interesting points. Progressivism was born out of the success of the Industrial Revolution. It is abundance and surplus that breed the modern liberal.
What irony and what a counter-intuitive result: plenty breeds resentment and unhappiness instead of gratitude and joy. Such madness...only from the mind of man.
Capitalism is a part of Natural Law. It’s always existed. It simply gets lost depending on the political structure of a society which can mask or mute it. Rome was woefully behind in economics, though it had great technology. It was the commercial revolution of the Middle Ages that lead to the exploration of the New World, its exploitation and the birth of our great nation.
Have you read this: Those ingenious Yankees: http://www.amazon.com/ingenious-Yankees-Joseph-Gies/dp/0690011504
No I hadn’t. I’ll check it out. I wish I had the time to read everything I want to.