November 15th, 2012
Lightning Strike (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Leo J. Shapiro
As the clean-up of Hurricane Sandy’s destructive impact on the Eastern Seaboard proceeds, the debate shifts from whether human behavior is causing global warming to one about the nature of God.
Evangelical Christians argue that Sandy is a punishment inflicted by a vengeful God on Americans having sinned in permitting same-sex marriage and abortion. Einstein, and other scientists who worship a rational God that does not play dice with the universe but establishes rules that govern the outcome of events, would argue that Sandy is the consequence of Americans violating rules governing the outcome of behavior.
Our survey of 1,065 Arizona residents conducted in the ten days leading up to September 15, 2012 found that the essentially theological debate triggered by Sandy has turned political in the campaign.
Among Arizona residents who intended to vote for the Democratic candidate for President, Barack Obama, 58% said they were “extremely or “very concerned” about global warming which was triple the 19% of residents likely to vote for Mitt Romney the Republican candidate.
Mass media reports on the dynamics of the 2012 Presidential campaign show the Democrats supporting scientists’ view that human activity is releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere causing global warming and Republicans supporting the religious view that global warming is a punishment for sins committed by the American people.
An article published in the November 10, 2012 New York Times reports in an article headlined “Christian Right Failed to Sway Voters on Issues” states that
“Rev. Billy Graham dropped any pretense of nonpartisanship and all but endorsed Mitt Romney for President. Roman Catholic Bishops denounced President Obama’s policies as a threat to life, religious freedom and the nuclear family. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed more voter guides in churches and contacted more homes by mail and phone than ever before…comments on rape by the Senate candidates Todd Aiken in Missouri and Richard Murdock in Indiana were ridiculed nationwide and alienated women.”
The same issue of the New York Times includes an article titled “Report Outlines Climate Change Perils for U.S. Military” which states:
“Climate change is accelerating and will place unparalleled strains on American military and intelligence agencies in coming years by causing ever more disruptive events around the globe, the nation’s top scientific research group said in a report issued Friday….Hurricane Sandy provided a foretaste of what can be expected in the near future the report’s leading author, John D. Steinbruner, said in an interview.”
The debate between Democrats and Republicans will influence actions taken by the federal government.
Democrats argue that tax dollars should be spent to change human behavior and reduce the burning of fossil fuels. They cite scientists who report that burning fossil fuels increases the level of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that causes global warming.
Republicans argue that tax dollars should be spent as they have always been spent to repair storm damage and to build sea walls and levies to protect against further damage by violent storms. They cite scripture to support their view that violent weather, drought, extinction of species are God’s punishment for sin.
These debates will not be settled on the basis of facts. Obama and Romney voters do not live in separate worlds but each has fixed views on climate change reflecting their ideological convictions.
These ideological convictions relate to demographic characteristics indicating that they were formed as the person matured and are unlikely to be subject to change. The factors that are at the root of their convictions about climate change also influence their views about their own and the economy’s future.
Demographically, Romney voters are more likely than Obama voters to be older native born males. In sharp contrast Obama likely voters are more likely than Romney voters to be younger immigrant females.
Financially, likely Romney voters are more likely than likely Obama voters to have higher incomes and more savings invested in stocks and bonds. Also, they are more prone than Obama voters to be apprehensive about their personal financial future and the future of the country.
In sharp contrast, financially, Obama voters are more likely than Romney voters to have lower incomes, fewer assets invested in stocks and bonds and be debt burdened. Also, they are optimistic about their personal financial future and about the future of the country.
Given demographic and financial differences which are associated with their views on climate change, it is unlikely that differences in their views of climate change can resolved by civil discourse involving an exchange of facts.
However, in terms of anticipating the future, the divergent views of Obama and Romney voters will not make much difference in the career of climate change. Climate change is subject to forces that are beyond the control of the United States government acting alone and may be beyond the control of nations’ globally even if they act collectively.
Think of Cnut, the Great, King of Vikings and master of all he surveyed who stood on the seashore and made a valiant but futile effort to sweep back the tides of the rising sea.
Looking toward the near term but not immediate future, the odds are that the nation’s economy will boom in the 2020’s just as it boomed in the Roaring 1920’s and the Halcyon 1960’s. The conditions for such a boom are clearly in place.
War followed by recession increases the pace of technological innovation and increases the productivity of labor without reducing industry’s productive capacity. Domestic demand for goods, deferred by the Mideast Wars and protracted recession, is already beginning to soar as technologically advanced cars, electronics and other goods become available in quantity at low prices.
International consumer demand is also ready to soar given the rising incomes of developing nations and the growing awareness of their populations of the higher standard of living available in developed nations.
Less developed nations as well as the United States are accelerating the production of goods and services without restraint to support growing populations at higher and higher standards of living.
As production of goods accelerates, the rate at which materials found stable in nature are transformed in toxic substances increases and the global economy deteriorates.
In the coming decades, in response to consumer pressure to increase their standard of living, global resources will increasingly be used to ameliorate the effects of global warming rather than to slow or reverse climate change.
Not until America and the world are forced to face up to the facts about the increasing rate at which species are becoming extinct will humanity marshal its forces to halt or reverse climate change which promises to bring on the sixth major extinction event.
In each of the five prior major extinction events for which fossil records exist, almost all species became extinct. Only 20% of species for which there is a fossil record survive today. In each major extinction event, the dominant species, the species that sits on top of the food chain and eats other species but is not eaten becomes extinct.
In the prior or fifth major extinction event, dinosaurs that sat on the top of the food chain eating other species while they were not eaten became extinct. The extinction of dinosaurs opened a food niche that permitted a small, hairy nervous mammal to evolve into Homo sapiens and become dominant.
The facts about the divide between Obama and Romney voters that were presented are based on a survey of only 1,065 Arizona residents, interviewed on the eve of the 2012 Presidential election. These facts are congruent with findings of our survey national surveys as well as facts from independent, large scale (26,565 interview surveys) conducted by Edison Research ,a consortium of ABC News, The Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC news with findings summarized in the November 11, edition of the New York Times.
Specifically, interview with 1,350 Americans sampled nationally on the eve of the prior 2008 Presidential Election found committed Democrats, those who deny any impulse to be independent, almost twice as likely, ratio of 98% to 55%, as committed Republicans to believe
Among Americans who initially say they are “independents” and then admit to leaning toward a political party those, who lean Democratic are sharply more likely than those who lean Republican, ratio of 90% to 60% to believe “the climate is changing and world temperatures are increasing worldwide.”
(For a description of the manner in which American divide into five distinct political parties rather than the traditionally accepted two Party system see “Arizona’s Five Political Parties” posted on 8SAGES.COM on October 13, 2012.)
Measurements of the demographics or 26,565 voters interviewed as they left 350 polling places plus 4,408 telephone interviews with early or absentee voters are congruent with measurements made in our Arizona and national surveys.
This massive study found Obama voters to be 2% Jewish and 25% Catholic with Romney voters 39% White Protestant plus 15% “other Protestants”. Among Romney voters 42% attended religious services at least once a week.
Romney voters had sharply higher incomes than Obama voters. However, as in the case of our surveys, more Romney voter reported their financial situation was worse (80%) than was the case among Obama voters (18%).
As for demographics the exit poll survey findings were congruent with our findings. Obama voters were more likely than Romney voters to be women; under thirty years of age; Black, Asian or Hispanic.
We found that the opposing views of committed Democrats and committed Republicans on the seriousness of global climate change were strongly associated with the demographics as well as the attitudinal differences between the two groups.
When the survey focused sharply on the months preceding the Presidential elections, we found that those who favored the Democratic candidates Kerry and McGovern resembled the view of Obama voters while the views of those who favored the Republicans candidates George W. Bush and McCain resembled the view of Romney.
While these facts about the period leading up to the 2012 Presidential election almost speak for themselves, statements about what is likely to happen in the decades following the 2012 Presidential elections are not based on facts. Statements about the future are based on an exercise in science fiction rather than on science.
Science fiction, under other names, is a highly disciplined technique used by scientists to formulate hypotheses that are subject to validation by empirical experiments. It is what Einstein called the “mind experiments” that lead to his formulation of the theory of relativity.
Chapter 7 of the book titled “Yesterday and Today Promises Bright Troubled Tomorrows” describes the exercise in science fiction that lead to the conclusions stated.
Because the author is human, Chapter 7 goes beyond the point where humanity recognizes that it must act in unison to stave of impending catastrophe and speculates on how that catastrophe is avoided.
Chapter 1 of the book has already been posted on 8SAGES.COM for review and critique by visitors to the site. Additional chapters will be posted at intervals of a week or two for review and critique.
Chapter 7 will be posted after the winner of the 2012 Presidential Election is inaugurated. It is intended to be a history of the future leading up to 2076 when the 300th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence will be celebrated.
After digesting and acting on visitor comments, suggestions and criticisms, the book will be published in conventional channels.
Copyright November 2012 by Leo J. Shapiro – All Rights Reserved
November 5th, 2012
The following is the second chapter of the forthcoming book, “Yesterday and Today Promise Bright but Troubled Tomorrows” by Leo J. Shapiro. We invite you to use the comment box at the end of the post, or to share your feedback using the “Contact Us” page.
Groups Enhance the Survival Ability of Individuals
As this is written in 2012, the global economy is on the verge of booming. With economic activity accelerating, the damage human activity can do to the environment becomes increasingly apparent; violent storms, droughts, forest fires, and species extinctions become more frequent.
The ability of humans to act in groups which enhances their ability to adapt to changing environments and survive gives them the power to control their future and the future of the global environment.
The ability to act in groups is not unique to humans but is a product of evolution shared with many species. The evolutionary process is most easily described by presenting illustrative examples.
Slime mold, a single cell microorganism, illustrates how single cell microorganisms become able to act collectively. Honey bees or termites, baboons and humans illustrate how progressively more complex multi-cell organisms become able to act collectively.
Slime mold lives in stagnant ponds as a single-celled organism. When food is scarce, slime mold congregates and functions as a single body. When a single slim mold cell included in the body detects and moves toward a new food source, additional single cells follow the pioneering cell and form tentacles that reach the food.
When the survival of slime mold is threatened by the evaporation of the pond’s water, the single cells, acting reflexively, form a body that produces stalks that grow up above the surface of the water and release countless spores light enough to be carried in the wind to distant ponds where the slime mold can reestablish itself.
American society and government had their start when humans began a trek from Africa that brought them to every part of the globe. As hunters and gathers, humans responded to food scarcity in their home environment much as slime mold reacts.
When food was scarce hunting and gathering humans sent foraging parties to search for food. When a foraging party finds food, they bring others to the site, settle and multiply.
As humans acquired enhanced capabilities to sense and locate new food supplies, they began to migrate purposely to a destination that promised abundance.
Samuel Stouffer, who taught statistics at the University of Chicago, published a study demonstrating statistically that migration was governed more by the promised abundance of the destination than by the scarcity in the place of origin.
Herbert Blumer who taught social philosophy and social theory at the University of Chicago contended that knowledge obtained simply by heaping up statistics was fragile since such knowledge does not take account of the changing external circumstances.
During my years at the University of Chicago and in the years that followed my securing a doctorate in sociology and working as an advisor to managers of business, government and charitable enterprises both Stouffer and Blumer continued to be my mentors.
Stouffer and Blumer enjoyed debating the merits of making measurements to secure knowledge on which to base a theory as contrasted to making observations as a participant-observer and using logic to construct a theory.
Personally, as an advisor to managements, I used measurements as well as participant-observation techniques to secure facts on which to anticipate the likely outcomes of action. Despite their disparate views on the method for securing knowledge which they vehemently argued for as academicians, both my mentors used measurements and participant observation techniques in their private work.
To avoid being drawn into academic controversy, I looked to Voltaire, a consummate diplomat, for guidance. When asked to adjudicate a dispute between the King and a courtier, Voltaire responded that the truth does not lie between two extremes but somewhere outside them.
Had Stouffer used statistics gathered when food was not radically scarce in the place of origin and not radically abundant in the place of destination he would have reported that migration is governed by the difference between the abundance of food at the place where migration originates and the place where it ends.
Despite is potential short-comings, his study’s findings were useful in that they demonstrated that scarcity of food had to be extreme and a destination that promised food had to be visible for migration to occur. In effect, he demonstrated that the pursuit of promised pleasures to mitigate pain and achieve happiness is more motivating than the impulse to flee mindlessly from pain.
His study of migration had a strange afterlife during World War II. Agencies engaged in psychological warfare went to great lengths to preserve their secrets. The best way to keep a secret is to act as if there were no secret.
Employees, for instance, were told to avoid letting anyone, including their intimates, know that they were working on secret projects. Instead, when conversations turned to work, employees were to talk freely but, rather than describe the work in which they were currently engaged, describe research reported in obscure academic articles as “cover stories.” I was startled when a friend of mine reciting a version of Stouffer’s findings on migration a description of the work in which he was currently engaged.
Studies of the demography of daytime populations were done to plan bombing raids that would hit concentrations of enemy professionals engaged in wartime work. Such studies were commissioned as studies of retail shopping.
In any case, a study of slim mold migration clearly indicates that migration can begin as a random search for food instigated by scarcity with the destination determined by chance encounters with food. The assumption the author has made is that migration can begin as a random search for food or other needed resources without any fixed destination in mind and end when food or other resources are found by chance.
To move beyond single cell to multi-cell organisms, let us consider honey bees and termites that live group lives. They are differentiated at birth to perform specific roles as a worker, warrior, queen or male drone. When food or danger is sensed, collective action is taken as each bee or termite acts reflexively, performing their assigned role.
Baboons, an even more complex multi-cell organism, live in troops ruled by a leader who coerces the consent of the members of the troop by defeating all other members of the group in battle. Much of the benefit baboons derive from living in a troop accrues directly to the leader who has priority access to food and sex.
The troop benefits from the leader’s ability to protect the troop from predation. Given the leader’s priority access to females, genetic traits for strength and intelligence that enable the leader to impose his will on the troop are perpetuated.
Humans, like bees, can act collectively by training individual humans to perform assigned roles in bureaucratic fashion. The capacity of humans to act collectively by establishing bureaucracies became evident during World War II.
To kill from a distance, the United States created man-machines that functioned as long range bombers. Each bomber had a five person crew that included a pilot, navigator, engineer, rear tail gunner and a bombardier.
After the bombers were designed, but before any were produced, training of crews plus replacements to offset losses from causalities began on mock-ups of the bomber controls that served as flight simulators.
Members of the crew differed profoundly in terms of their required innate abilities, the amount of training time needed, and the percent of successful completions. As training proceeded, human engineering was used to improve the integration of man and machine. Where needed and when feasible, the interface between humans and controls was modified on the yet to be completed bombers.
The survival benefit that slime mold and bees and bureaucratically organized flight crews derive from acting collectively is limited because their actions are pre-determined and inflexible. While slime mold, bees, and bomber crews can sustain themselves in a stable environment, they are not able to adapt to a changed environment.
Baboons and humans are intelligent species that are better able than bees and slime mold to process information and therefore to adapt to a changing environment. The degree to which intelligent species can adapt to changes in their environment varies with their intelligence and the degree to which leaders of groups secure their power from the willing rather than the coerced consent of members of the group.
Primitive human nuclear families, much like troops of baboons tend to be patriarchal led by a senior autocratic male who coerces the consent of those who are governed. Unlike baboon troops, human families link to one another and form extended groups, such as tribes and nations.
These larger groups of primitive humans formed by nuclear families linked by marriage are, like their constituent families, led by monarchs, dictators and other authoritarians who secure the consent of those they govern through coercion. Such groups derive limited survival benefit from group living because the options considered when adapting to an environment are limited by the preconceptions of the leader.
Among highly socialized humans, leaders secure the consent of members of the group through the conduct of elections or other democratic negotiations rather than by pure despotism. Groups where the leader secures the willing rather than the forced consent of the members have a superior survival advantage in that they can consider a wider range of action options and recruit all members of the group to support action decisions.
Long after the trek from Africa populated the globe, migration began from England to the north eastern coast of America. The migrants established a Colonial Society which was subject to rule by the King of England who was seen as ruling by Divine Right.
The Colonial Society: 1607 to 1776
In 1607 Homo sapiens, having the intelligence to select destinations of promise but possessed of imperfect information migrated from England to North America and founded Jamestown, the precursor of the United States. The English had mistakenly chosen to migrate to North America in search of gold.
While unsuccessful in the search for gold they developed a profitable, labor intensive business growing and exporting tobacco. To meet their need for labor, settlers tried but could not enslave the Native Americans.
In 1619, ninety single English women were shipped to Jamestown, each to be sold for 150 pounds of tobacco paid to the shipping company for their passage. They were known as “tobacco brides” There were many such shipments made over the course of the years.
However, white women did not stand up under the burden of field labor. Their availability did not ease the problem of securing labor needed to grow tobacco. The settlers then made an initial purchase of African slaves from a passing Dutch ship or, to cite a different story, from two pirate ships.
African American women did stand up under the burden of field labor and had children who could be enslaved. When William Tucker, the first African American child was born, he was treated as a slave. Jamestown made it a matter of law that children born of slaves were slaves.
The number of slaves increased as the slave trade continued and as slaves had children. Slavery became the basis for agriculture in Virginia and the Southern Colonies.
In 1624, Jamestown sent its first shipment of 200,000 pounds of tobacco to England. Exports rose to 3,000,000 pounds of tobacco in 1638 and soared to 25,000,000 pounds a year in the 1680s.
The above description of the colonial society does not deal specifically with the northern colonies and their establishment as an escape from religious persecution. Their religious orientation planted roots influencing America’s historical evolution and the removal of barriers to equality.
Religious persecution is a factor that contributed to colonization of the country. The religious orientations of the North played a strong role in the removal of barriers to equality throughout the colonial period and in all that followed.
Trouble began when the King of England, regarding himself in absolute control of the Colonies by divine right, was denounced in the Declaration of Independence as a tyrant who:
“… having a history of repeated injury and usurpations, all having in the direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over the states.”
“In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
“… we therefore declare that these united colonies are and of right ought to be free … that they are absolved of all allegiance to the British Crown and that all political connections between them and the state of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved …
Thomas Jefferson in writing the Declaration of Independence denied that the King of England ruled by Divine Right and asserted that “Governments … derive their power from the consent of the governed.”
The Colonial Society was established when their rag tag army of civilians defeated the professional army of England and achieved freedom for its free white male population.
In winning the American Revolution, the Colonists gained their freedom from English rule but no longer had a government. They needed to establish a government for their new nation to survive. That government would allocate national resources in a fashion that insured the nation’s survival and independence.
The nation’s founders were acutely aware of the necessity for achieving the willing consent of the nation’s citizens to the rule of their government in order to survive. Jefferson had witnessed how civilians willingly respond to the nation’s leaders’ decision to rebel by joining together in a rag-tag army to fight as an insurgency led by General Washington. That rag-tag army of willing civilians defeated the highly disciplined, bureaucratically organized English army and their Hessian mercenaries.
Direction for uniting the American people and achieving their willing consent to be governed by their newly formed government comes from Thomas Jefferson. As Garry Wills asserts in his book titled “Inventing America,” Jefferson wanted equal representation for “all of the hundreds” so long as he could maintain competition. But, Jefferson notes that in maintaining competition, norms of excellence and equality would be pitted against each other in a way to cause resentment and a sense of injury.
The Athenian Society 350 BC
The nation’s founders used the government of Ancient Athens as a model for creating the United States government. The Athenian government appealed as a model because it had no executive branch that might elevate itself and become a tyranny. Instead Athens was ruled as a direct democracy where each citizen voted directly on matters of state.
While the United States government’s structure has elements taken from the Athenian Society it differs from the government of Athens in a manner that is sensitive to differences in the size of their respective populations and territory.
The Athenian population of roundly 300,000 persons was small and territorially compact enough to permit its citizens to meet face to face and vote on matters of state. By contrast, the United State’s population of 3,929, 214 persons were dispersed over a territory so large that it took days to traverse.
While each Athenian citizen voted directly on matters of state, citizens of the United States, citizens elected representatives whom they empowered to vote on matters of state.
In Athens as in the United States, the power to make and to enforce law was divided between three branches of government: legislative, judicial and administrative.
In Athens, the “Assembly” functioned as a legislature. Its decisions on matters of law were made by the direct vote of a majority of a quorum of at least 6,000 citizens present at the assembly. Each citizen in attendance cast one vote.
When the number of citizens attending the Assembly fell short of a quorum, slaves went into the marketplace and forced citizens to attend. In the United States the government does not have the right to force citizens to vote.
Unlike the Athenian assembly, the United States legislature is bi-cameral, consisting of a Senate and House of Representatives. United States citizens, unlike Athenian citizens, do not vote on legislation. Instead citizens elect Senators and Representatives to vote for them.
In the Senate, each state in the United States, regardless of its population, is represented equally by two Senators. In the House of Representatives, each state is represented by a number of representatives that is proportioned to the population of the state.
The influence of the Athenian Democracy on the structure of the United States government is visible in the American House of Representatives.
In the first national election, each congressional district in the United States from which a Representative was elected had a population of 30,000 – a population equal to the estimated total number of Athenian citizens with the right to vote.
The judicial branch of the Athenian government called its “Court” functioned like a jury without a judge present. Decisions on disputed matters were made by a direct vote of a majority of present citizens providing that at least 200 were present. In the United States, judicial decisions are not made by a vote of the citizens but are made by judges elected to office as well as judges who are appointed to office.
Juries composed of citizens decide on the facts but, unlike the situation in ancient Athens, judges not citizens in the United States make judicial decisions. Courts in the United States have the power to force citizens to serve on a jury.
The Athenian “Council” served as an executive committee of the assembly preparing measures for deliberation by the assembly. It was responsible for the treasury and for performing administrative functions for the state. Council’s decisions were made by a majority vote providing there were at least 500 citizens present.
The Council had relatively little power to take initiatives. It was responsible for executing the wishes of the assembly not for making decisions on matters of state.
Many of the functions performed by the Athenian Council are performed by the Executive branch of the American government. The Executive branch of the American government, unlike the Athenian Council does have the power to take initiatives and its chief executive, the President, is in command of the military. In Athens, there was no executive and command of the military was in the hands of generals who were elected to office.
Not only was the Athenian government used as a model for the United States government, the United States also adopted the Athenian society’s hierarchical hereditary social structure.
Athens granted citizenship and the right to vote only to men born of Athenian citizens who completed their military service. The 30,000 Athenian citizens with the right to vote constituted only a tenth of the 300,000 population of Athens. The balance of the population included slaves, foreigners and women.
In the United States, only 1.3% of its “nominal” population of 3,929,214 voted in the 1790 Presidential election. This figure needs interpretation. The President was elected by the Electoral College not by the popular vote. Each state legislature had the power to select electors who would vote in the Electoral College. The process for selecting electors varied widely from state to state.
In five states, electors were chosen by the legislature rather than by popular vote. In two states, Pennsylvania and Maryland, electors were chosen by popular vote. The method for selecting electors varied in the remaining eight states in a process that involved taking some account of the popular vote and some account of the will of the legislatures.
Currently, a majority of Americans may prefer to have their president elected by popular vote rather than by a vote of Electors sent to the Electoral College by the individual states. However, none of the numerous constitutional amendments to abolish the Electoral College and have the President elected by popular vote or to change the manner in which Electors are chosen have passed.
The first Decennial Census held in the United States, was taken in 1790 to secure information needed to allocate the costs of war and determine each state’s quota for contributing manpower to the military. That Census’ count of 3,929,214 persons is deemed “nominal” because it reflected the Athenian view of whites as superior in value to slaves.
The Census counted each white as a full person, whether free or indentured as a servant. Each slave was counted as only three fifths of a person. Native Americans and foreigners were treated as non-persons and not included in the nominal population count.
In the United States as was the case in Athens, the law granted free white male citizens the right to utilize the goods and services produced by the coerced unpaid labor of women and slaves.
Aristotle justified the exploitation of women and slaves by asserting that slaves and women were sub-human. They did not rule themselves and, therefore, were manifestly unable to rule themselves. He argued that it was just that the men who ruled women and slaves be rewarded for their services to women and slaves by having access to the fruits of their labor. In this manner, men could have the leisure required to pursue knowledge and achieve personal happiness.
With freedom from England won, the Colonial Society was subsumed by the Revolutionary Society. Although no longer visible, the Colonial and Revolutionary Societies continued to influence the American Society.
Over time, the American society continued to develop like a set of Russian nesting dolls, a Matryoshka, with each doll representing a society that once prevailed nesting within the successor society and had a continue influence although invisible. The successive societies include:
- Colonial Society– 1607 to 1776;
- Revolutionary Society– 1776 to 1861;
- Industrial Society – 1861 to 1970
- Grazing Society - 1970 to 2012
The Revolutionary Society: 1776 to 1861
After freedom was won, the Colonial Society was subsumed by the Revolutionary Society but continued to function in peacetime as it had during the war, as a loose confederation of sovereign nations.
In 1787, eleven years after the Declaration was signed, the Colonies convened a convention that would be held in Philadelphia to address problems of governing the United States.
In June of 1778, the Second Continental Congress authorized the drafting of the Articles of Federation and Perpetual Union creating a federation empowered to make war, negotiate treaties and resolve issues regarding the Western territories. The Federation was weak in that it had no President, no executive agencies, no judiciary, and no tax base. It could not act except with the unanimous consent of all the Colonies.
Although the 1787 conference was called to revise the Articles of Federation, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and others went to the Convention with the intention of forming a new government by replacing the Articles of Federation, with a Constitution. George Washington was elected to preside over the Convention.
While united in their opposition to British rule, the Colonists had great difficulty in forming their own central government. Marked differences in the economic interests of colonies with large and those with small slave populations were difficult to resolve. Each Colony regarding itself as a sovereign nation, found it difficult to cede some of their sovereign powers to the federal government.
But, recognizing that they could “choose to be hanged separately for treason if they failed to hang together,” representatives of the Colonies committed themselves to reach compromises and did ratify the Constitution.
The Constitutional convention’s contentious and protracted proceedings that began in May 1787 continued for four months through the hot summer into September. During the proceedings, the meeting room’s windows were closed to keep the public from overhearing the discussions. Since no official minutes were kept, the history of the proceedings is murky.
From notes kept by James Madison and other delegates, it is known, that the Convention dealt with the issue of states’ rights versus the rights of the federal government, slavery, taxation, resolution of conflicts between the Colonies, and the problem of finding an alternative to requiring unanimous consent to change or amend the Articles.
The resulting Constitution is a tribute to the art of compromise. It allowed each of the thirteen former British colonies to retain their sovereign rights as States, except for those rights explicitly assigned to the federal government.
The federal government was given the authority and responsibility for protecting the nation from attack by foreign powers and domestic insurrections, for managing commerce between the states, and the right to impose taxes to pay the costs of the nation’s defense and costs of the federal government.
Importantly, and of lasting consequence, the individual State governments, not the federal government, were given the right to decide on voter eligibility. As a result of giving the states the right to decide voter eligibility, control of the Revolutionary Society was put into hands of the privileged elite comprised of white male landowners to whom the states granted the right to vote.
Athenian beliefs about the inferiority of women and slaves shaped the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the decisions on voting rights made by state governments.
When the Declaration of Independence was written, the word “men” in the phrase “all men are created equal” was not meant to include slaves or women. Similarly, the word “people” in the phrase “governments derive the power from the consent of the people” actually turned out to refer specifically to white male landowners and did not include slaves or women as people.
The United States Constitution ratified in 1789 made lawful the practice of slavery. Thomas Paine’s essay, African Slavery in America, published in 1775, a year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, marked the start of the Abolitionist movement.
The abolitionists did not quickly alter the still prevailing Aristotelian view that slaves were sub-human. In 1857, eighty one years after the Declaration was signed, Dred Scott, a slave who lived in free territory, sued for his freedom.
The Supreme Court in their 1857 decision denying his freedom writes African American people “are regarded as so far inferior that they have no rights which a white man was bound to respect.” The decision removed any ambiguity about the United States government’s disregard of the Declaration of Independence assertion that all men were born equal.
The general acceptance of women as property similarly persisted. During the Revolutionary War Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John Adams, who was one of the revisers and signers of the Declaration of Independence, stating:
“And by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of the husbands”
However, John Adams replied in April 1776:
“As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh. Depend on it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems.”
Citizens with the right to vote had a vested interest in preserving their rights and privileges. These rights included the ownership of slaves, the treatment of women as property, and the right to deny foreigners and Native Americans the right to vote.
In 1777 women lost the right to vote in New York, in 1780 they lost the right to vote in Massachusetts and in 1784 women lost the right to vote in New Hampshire. In 1788 when the Constitution gave the states the right to establish voting qualifications, women then lost the right to vote in all states except New Jersey.
In New Jersey, until 1807, the state constitution permitted all persons worth over fifty pounds to vote. Free blacks and single women therefore had the right to vote but not married women because married women could not have independent claim to fifty pounds. Anything they owned belonged to their husbands.
Compromises made during the Convention to achieve agreement so the Constitution would be ratified did not fully satisfy the delegates but came close enough to satisfying competing interests to be accepted.
Benjamin Franklin in commenting on the virtue of the Constitution despite the weaknesses of the compromises that were made wrote:
“There are several parts of the Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I will ever approve them…I doubt whether any other Convention we may obtain, may be able to make a better constitution…It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near perfection as it does, and I think it will astonish our enemies.”
The idea that all men are endowed by their creator with unalienable rights did appear in the Declaration as originally written. While the nation’s founders did recognize the Creator they did not mean to acknowledge the supremacy of organized religion. To the contrary: the founders feared that organized religion would tyrannize the nation.
Still fearful of the imposition of a tyranny, the delegates agreed that the Constitution would be amended immediately to give its people the right to insure that the federal government would derive its power from the consent of the governed.
The first ten Amendments adopted in 1791constituted a Bill of Rights. Its first amendment prohibited Congress from making any law respecting the establishment or practice of religion; abridging freedom of speech or the press or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress if injuries.
Large numbers of the Colonies’ population were migrants who had fled Europe to escape oppression by organized religions. Europeans continued to migrate to the United States into the 20th Century to escape the oppression of organized religion.
As late as 1910, my father-in-law emigrated from Sweden to the United States after the Lutheran minister forbade his father from holding dances in his barn. After a quarter of the total Swedish population left Sweden, the Swedish government pulled the teeth of the Lutheran Church’s political power but respectfully continues to maintain their unattended Lutheran churches.
Despite enforcement of the separation between church and state, religious leaders in the United States continue to press with some success for the right of their religious organizations, churches, to participate in the United States government.
With the ratification of the Constitution, General George Washington was elected President, served two four-year terms and retired to private life. He established a precedent that Presidents serve two four years terms. That precedent was honored until President Franklin Roosevelt ran for a fourth term in office. Congress then enacted a statute that established a two four-year term limit for the Presidency.
John Adams succeeded General George Washington as President and, although a civilian, became the Commander in Chief of the nation’s armed forces as did all subsequent presidents whether they were civilians or military men. Effectively, the armed forces were brought under the control of the President, an elected government official, rather than a General appointed by the armed forces.
Even though the Constitution failed to resolve a number of crucial issues, the union held together for seventy years until the Southern States seceded from the Union in 1861 precipitating a Civil War that lasted until 1865.
The Revolutionary Society was composed of patriarchal nuclear families that used women, slaves, indentured servants, children, the elderly, and the disabled as unpaid workers to produce much of the food, clothing and other daily necessities the society consumed.
Membership in a nuclear family was an economic necessity. Access to the products produced by the family was restricted to family members who participated in their production.
Prior to gaining independence, Britain had discouraged the Colonies from engaging in manufacturing. It treated the Colonies as a source of raw materials and as a market for England’s finished manufactured goods.
On gaining independence, the United States federal government cut off trade with Britain and developed its own manufacturing, beginning the transformation of the American economy from agrarian to industrial. The productivity of its labor grew.
The federal government assumed the debts of the states by issuing federal bonds to debtors creating the Bank of the United States to stabilize the financial system.
To support his program for centering power in the federal government, Alexander Hamilton formed the Federalist Party. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, favoring state and individual rights, formed the Republican Party.
Counting persons as being of equal value in assessing the wealth of a State was realistic when most everyone worked on farms. It was not realistic in a society that engaged in manufacturing where the value of a person varied with their skills, their access to production equipment and other resources that enhanced the productivity of their labor – that is, the productivity of their labor as measured by the value of goods produced per hour.
In 1820 Thomas Jefferson, recognizing that labor performed by people with a marketable skill was of more value to the nation than the unpaid labor performed to produce goods for personal consumption, recommended that the Census make a count of “gainful workers,” defined as persons who possessed an occupation or skill that enabled them to produce goods or service for sale.
Starting with the 1870 Census, separate counts of “gainful workers” were made following the recommendations made in 1820 by Thomas Jefferson.
As the economy developed, the United States expanded geographically. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase from the French provided the United States with vast territories west of the Mississippi. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act which authorized the president to negotiate treaties exchanging Native American tribal land east of the Mississippi for lands west of the Mississippi. In 1845, the Republic of Texas was annexed triggering a war with Mexico which the United States easily won.
After 1840, the abolitionist movement gained momentum. Abraham Lincoln, in an 1858 speech to Republican delegates who had just chosen him as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, warned that the persistence of slavery threatened the survival of the nation. In that speech, he stated that:
A house divided against itself cannot stand…this nation cannot endure permanently half slave and half free …I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it to cease to be divided.
The Civil War began three years after Lincoln gave his speech. In 1861, slave-owning states announced they were seceding from the Union. The outbreak of the Civil War signaled the start of the final years of the Revolutionary Society.
During the Civil War it became expedient for the North to weaken the South by abolishing slavery and granting Black men the right to vote.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in states that had seceded from the union and in states conquered by the Union.
The Emancipation Proclamation left slavery intact in four states that were slave states but had not seceded from the Union (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri ) as well as the Border areas that later became the states: West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Kansas.
The Proclamation accepted former slaves into the Union’s army and navy. By the end of the war, 200,000 Black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and their own freedom. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting slavery, was proposed in 1865 and by 1870 was ratified by all but three states – Delaware, Kentucky and Mississippi. It was not until 1995 that the last state, Mississippi, formally ratified the amendment.
While it was deemed useful to grant freedom and the right to vote to Black men who could become warriors, it was not deemed useful to grant Black women the right to vote and then face the issue of granting White women the right to vote.
The 15th Constitutional amendment ensuring the right to vote of Black men (but not Black women) was proposed in 1869 and, by 1870 ratified by 33 of the 37 states – including Mississippi.
In the Southern States, the end of the Civil War did not expand African-Americans right to vote. As late as 1940, despite the ratification of the 15th Constitutional Amendment granting black men the right to vote, and the grant of the right to vote to women in 1920, only 3% of African-Americans eligible to vote in Southern States were registered to do so.
African-American inequality persisted in Southern States because the laws giving African-Americans the right to vote conflicted with the informal code of conduct governing the behavior of Americans.
Southern States disenfranchised African-Americans. They imposed poll taxes, required voters to pass literacy tests and enacted other restrictions on voting that disproportionately affected African-Americans. In addition, public hostility and the threat of violence kept African-Americans from voting.
Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race and gender, blacks and women did not achieve equality with white men in their access to privileges and wealth.
The decision to treat “gainful workers” as having higher value than those who were not “gainful workers” represented a step toward replacing the “caste” system that prevailed in the Revolutionary Society with a “class” system. It also represented a step toward giving women and blacks upward mobility as they gained a place in the work force and, therefore, a chance to achieve equality with white males.
Under the caste system, a person’s status in society was fixed for life by the accident of their birth. Born a slave meant remaining a slave, with virtually no chance for upward mobility. So long as slavery was protected by law, the caste system prevailed and the Declaration’s promise of equality in the pursuit of happiness could not be fulfilled.
By contrast, the class system functions, however imperfectly, as a meritocracy where upward mobility can be achieved, making possible progress toward fulfilling the Declaration’s promise of equality.
The changes made in the course of fighting the Civil War, including the abolition of slavery, shaped Americans’ view of their nation and human rights.
Revisions of the Pledge of Allegiance composed by Francis Bellamy and formally adopted by Congress in 1892 as an oath of loyalty to the flag and to the republic trace the changing view of the nation and human rights. Originally, the pledge states:
“I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
The word “indivisible” asserts the United States is a nation not a federation of sovereign states. Unlike the words in the Declaration of Independence that assert “all men are created equal”, the words “liberty and justice for all” in the Pledge made it explicit that everyone, regardless of gender or race, had an equal right to liberty and justice, rather than only white men who own land.
After being revised several times, the word “under God” was inserted in the Pledge in 1954 so it read:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
The Pledge, like the Declaration of Independence, sets a goal the nation commits itself to achieve rather than describes reality. The words “liberty and justice for all” were no more descriptive of the reality than the word in the Declaration asserting “all men are created equal.”
In 1954 when the revised Pledge was adopted, slaves were emancipated and women had the right to vote but the economic status of Blacks and women was sharply inferior to that of white men.
Among whites as well as among emancipated Blacks, the creation of a hierarchical class structure created barriers for the achievement of equality for children born to lower class parents.
Given their low income and lack of education, lower class parents did not provide their children, during the first three years of their lives, with nutrition needed to support the development of their brain or the intellectual stimulation required to develop the language and social skills that would make them ready for school.
The pace at which barriers to the pursuit of happiness were eliminated after the conclusion of the Civil War and during the reconstruction period did not keep pace with the changed expectations of the greater whole of society. This brought the Revolutionary Society to its end and the Industrial Society emerged.
The Industrial Society: 1863 to 1970
During the Civil War the production of military and consumer goods expanded greatly. After the War’s end, technology (e.g. railroads, production and distribution of electric power, telephones, and other inventions), industrialization, urbanization, and the productivity of labor surged, marking the start of the Industrial Society.
Equality for blacks increased with the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1875. However, passage by the states of Jim Crow laws and Black Codes restricted the labor, migration, and civil rights of slaves and freed blacks.
In the late 1860’s the Ku Klux Klan emerged and opposed civil rights for blacks. Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1870 to close the Klan. However, the Supreme Court nullified the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and ended federal efforts to stop private acts of violence designed to suppress civil rights. Tactics such as poll taxes were used by those in power to deny the now lawful rights of blacks.
While nuclear families continued to be the basic components of the Industrial Society, the manner in which families organized their work changed and the productivity of their family members’ labor increased.
Nuclear family members divided their work between male “breadwinners” and female “homemakers.” “Breadwinners” were men who worked for pay at enterprises located away from home, producing goods and services for sale rather than for their own consumption. Given access to mechanized and powered production equipment, their productivity was high.
“Homemakers” were women who worked without pay at home, to produce ready-to-eat food, ready-to-wear clothing, and other products and services that met the day-to-day needs of family members. Women working at home did not have access to production equipment or systems. Their labor productivity was relatively low.
Membership in a nuclear family remained an economic necessity for gaining access to the family’s goods and services. Children and the elderly had access to the products and services produced by their family by virtue of their blood or marriage connection, even though they might not contribute to family production.
By 1890, increases in labor productivity made the per capita industrial production and income in the United States exceed those of all other world nations. In addition, massive immigration from Europe provided the labor for American industry. From 1880 to 1914 more than 22 million people migrated to the United States. The United States emerged as a world economic and military power.
When World War I started in 1914, Woodrow Wilson declared United States neutrality. Continued submarine warfare by Germany to cut off shipments of supplies to Britain and continued lobbying by England brought the United States to declare War in April 1917.
The people of the United States are its military force. It was the people resident in the colonies that rose up and defeated Britain’s trained troops and mercenary’s in bloody battle. When the Southern States seceded from the Union, it was the people of the Northern and the Southern States, not armies of professional soldiers, who fought the bloody Civil War that made the United States indivisible.
With the declaration of World War I, the United States drafted and trained civilians to create a military force able to send American troops to fight in Europe at the rate of 10,000 a day. Germany, unable to replace its battle casualties, surrendered in 1918.
Prior to America’s declaration of war, federal spending grew three times faster than tax collections, sparking growth in economic activity even before the United States entered the war. With the United States entry into the war, the pace of economic activity accelerated.
Again, expansion of America’s productive capacity to meet wartime demands and the deferral of consumer spending during the war set the stage for a major expansion of the economy in the post war era ushering in the years known as the Roaring Twenties. Not only did the economy expand but the culture changed with the adoption of Prohibition and the speakeasy, short skirts, and bobbed hair.
In 1920, women were given the right to vote, freeing them to consent or refuse to consent to be governed. The bonds between the male and female heads of the nuclear family became more symbiotic rather than purely patriarchal, but the nuclear family continued.
Males continued as “breadwinners” expected to earn the money needed to buy products the family could not produce and women continued as “homemakers” expected to work without pay to clean, cook, clothe and care for the home, the man, the children, and other family members.
The nature of the nuclear family is characterized by an insight voiced during a 1943 conversation between demographers at the Census. In explaining what determined the amount of time elapsing between divorce and re-marriage, they concluded: women remarry when they run out of money, men remarry when they wear their last clean shirt.
Women’s need for membership in a nuclear family to secure access to a man’s income diminished at a gradual pace as employment at enterprises for women increased. Starting from a low base during the early days of the Industrial Society, the percent of women 16 years of age and older working for pay or profit or seeking such work increased from 18% in 1900, to 21% in 1920, and to 25% in 1940.
As women took employment for pay in enterprises, their productivity increased and the size of the work force expanded, contributing to an abundance of goods that reduced the need for the unpaid labor of women.
When the war ended, the economy converted from wartime to a civilian basis and boomed. Individual worker productivity grew 43% between 1919 and 1929. Between May 1928 and September 1929 the prices of the average stock listed on public exchanges increased by 40%.
The boom ended abruptly in August 1929. Wholesale prices declined 20%, and personal income fell 5%. Then, in October 1929, the stock market crash signaled the start of the Great Depression and the beginning of the end of the Industrial Society.
The word “Depression” fails to convey the degree to which the Industrial Society became dysfunctional. Banks and other businesses failed. In a period when hunger, even starvation, was prevalent, milk was spilled on the ground rather than brought to market because milk prices were so low. Fields of cotton were plowed under, and millions of piglets were slaughtered rather than raised to maturity given their low prices.
A quarter of the work force became unemployed. Soup kitchens opened to feed the hungry. In 1932, veterans of World War I marched on Washington asking for relief. They were driven out of the capital by armed forces under the command of Douglas MacArthur, assisted by Dwight Eisenhower.
Acting under orders, shots were fired and two veterans killed. Paradoxically, in the course of their careers, MacArthur did not advance to higher office, while Eisenhower became President and Commander-in-Chief.
That year, Herbert Hoover was voted out of office and Franklin Roosevelt elected as President in his place. Like Alexander the Great, who used Aristotle as an adviser, Roosevelt, seeking advice from the best minds, assembled experts mainly from Columbia University and Harvard Law Schools – creating a so-called “brain trust”– to advise him.
In 1932, on the advice of experts, Roosevelt’s administration took a number of actions to create jobs and to ease the pain inflicted by the Depression. These steps were funded essentially by redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor.
One example of the use of public funds to create jobs for the poor is the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) established in 1932 that employed a half million workers to build public structures and create trails and tourist facilities in national parks. A second example is the CWA (Civil Works Administration), which was intended to create jobs in construction that paid well.
Alarmed by Roosevelt’s plan to redistribute wealth, a number of millionaires led by the DuPont and Morgan families made an abortive effort to organize a military coup to drive Roosevelt from office and replace the American Democracy with a fascist government modeled after the one led by Mussolini.
The millionaires tried to recruit General Smedley Butler to lead the coup. He was promised an army of 500,000 as well as unlimited financial resources. Remington Arms, a subsidiary of DuPont, was to provide the insurgent army with arms.
When Butler reported the planned coup to Congress, the mass media, including the New York Times, first dismissed it as a “gigantic hoax.” However, two months after the Congressional Committee’s report on their investigation of the coup was released, the New York Times ran a follow-up story saying it was convinced that Butler’s story of a planned fascistic march on Washington was “alarmingly true.”
In 1934, Senator Nye convened Congressional hearings on profiteering during World War I. The hearings called J.P. Morgan Jr. and Pierre Du Pont as witnesses. The DuPont Company felt it and its Remington Arms division were tarred almost indelibly as a “Merchant of Death” in the course of those hearings.
As late as the mid-50s, when I gave a talk at Remington Arms and asked why “Better Things for Better Living through Chemistry” was the slogan of its parent company, Mr. DuPont, who was in the audience, answered, “Better than being called ‘a merchant of death,’ young man,” and then turned his hearing aid off.
Vigorous actions taken by the federal government to reduce unemployment during the Great Depression stalled as Congress debated the magnitude of the unemployment problem.
Government statistics on “gainful workers” did not measure unemployment. A person with a marketable skill was counted as a gainful worker whether or not he or she worked for pay or profit or looked for such work.
A joke circulated among demographers at the Census dealt with a mythical retired army Colonel who had thrown a party where guests had drank enough to be unruly. His wife complained to the Colonel that his friend Reggie had called her a whore. The colonel replied, “Understandable. I have been out of the army for years and they still call me Colonel.”
As far as the government knew, officially, the rate of unemployment was zero. Yet, it was obvious that large numbers of Americans were not working and could not find work.
In 1937, the federal government authorized a study to develop and test a method for measuring the nation’s civilian labor force in a manner that would yield estimates of the number of persons who were employed, as well as the number who were unemployed.
The findings of this study had immediate utility in informing the government about the magnitude of unemployment. Longer term, the method developed was used in the conduct of the 1940 Census and in subsequent government measurements of employment and unemployment.
(For review of the revision of the 1940 Census statistics on employment and unemployment see: CURRENT POPULATION REPORTS: Labor Force Bulletin Series p-50, No.2 Bureau of the Census. J.C. Capt, Director. Philip M. Hauser, Deputy Director. Prepared by Edwin D. Goldfield, Leo J. Shapiro and Rex Lohman)
In 1939, with the outbreak of World War II in Europe, the grip of the Depression began to ease as the United States increased its production of products by 50% between1939 and 1941 to supply Great Britain with war material and to strengthen its own armed forces in anticipation of war. The United States financed England’s purchases by the Lend-Lease program.
In 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States declared War on Germany, Japan and the other Axis nations. After Pearl Harbor the nation mobilized for War and expanded its civilian work force. To replace men drafted into the military it recruited women, the retired, the disabled and others to work for pay.
The nation came of age during World War II, much as the experience of fighting the Revolutionary War marked the birth of the United States.
The productivity of labor increased as enterprises utilized improved production systems and two technologies developed that enabled continuing improvement in labor productivity during and after the war:
Information technology sparked by advances in cryptography, made possible increases in labor productivity by creating responsive production equipment and systems able to sense, process and act on information.
Invention project management enabled development of products based on scientific discoveries. The Manhattan Project, for instance, met the wartime demand for a superior bomb by utilizing Einstein’s discovery of the relation between energy and mass.
A key barrier to the pursuit of happiness by women began to crumble during World War II as women took jobs for pay and were not treated as property confined to working as unpaid labor at home. They began to take ownership of themselves and their bodies.
Women, who had taken jobs during the War temporarily, stopped working for pay, married and produced the so-called “baby-boom” generation. Total fertility rates jumped from 2.5 children per female during the 1940 to 1944 war years to peak at 3.7 children per woman in 1955 to 1959. Fertility rates then dropped steadily, reaching 1.8 children per woman in 1975 to 1979.
Production of ready-to-eat food, clothing and other products that had been produced by the unpaid labor of nuclear family members shifted to enterprises. At enterprises, paid employees produce specialized lines of product for sale rather than for consumption by the employees who produced the products.
Given efficiencies of scale and access to advanced production systems and equipment, the productivity of women working for pay at enterprises was sharply higher than the productivity of unpaid women producing food, clothing and other necessities at home.
In the 1960’s, economic activity, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), began to accelerate after having remained essentially flat during the years when the nation converted from a war time to a civilian economy.
Passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and related legislation outlawed all forms of discrimination against blacks and women. It made illegal unequal application of voter registration and racial segregation in the schools and by facilities that served the general public.
In the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the ideal that “all men are created equal”, while not achieved was made enforceable as the law of the land, 188 years after the Declaration of Independence was ratified. It enabled the disadvantaged segments of society to use the lethal force of government to eliminate manmade barriers to employment, wealth, relationships that make for happiness.
Not until ratification of the 24th Constitutional Amendment in 1964 prohibiting any state from abridging or denying a citizen’s right to vote by virtue of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax could the power of the federal government be deployed to ensure the rights of all citizens to vote, to employment, and to access to public property.
The gradual lifting of barriers to employment faced by women, African Americans and person of foreign origin, by the aged, the disabled and by other disadvantaged segments of the population contributed to the expansion of the labor force and for increases in the productivity of labor setting the stage for an economic boom of unprecedented proportion.
Nevertheless, the Industrial Society became dysfunctional after the 41 year period beginning in 1929 with the Great Depression and ending in 1970 with the conclusion of World War II and the unprecedented economic post-war boom that followed making the United States not only the dominant military power but also the largest economy in the world.
With the population booming and economic activity accelerating, the damage human activity can do to the environment became apparent. The nation was originally puzzled about the origin of smog that developed in cities where auto traffic and industrial activity during hot days where a heat inversion stilled the winds. They are no longer puzzled.
In their effort to improve their life, humans can and do collateral damage to the environment and inadvertently threaten their survival.
Robinson Jeffers, in his poem titled “Passenger Pigeons” addresses the hubris of mankind by staging a conversation with Death. The conversation begins with a description of the extermination of passenger pigeons and bison after their population grew explosively.
Man says to Death:
“These explosions of life, they are your food. They make your feasts.
”But turn your great rolling eyes, those grossly craving black eyes. Away from humanity, it is true we increase”
“We have invented the jet plane and the death bomb and the Cross of Christ –”
“Oh he replies ‘surely you will live forever’ – grinning like a skull covering his mouth with his hand.”
‘What could exterminate you?’”
(Quoted from: The Beginning and the End, by Robinson Jeffers; available from Amazon)
The answer to Death’s question could be self-evident and trite. Humans will exterminate themselves unless they are mindful that their survival depends on the survival of other life on earth.
It could also be complex and realistic. In that humans have control over their future, they are responsible for their destiny.
© 2012 All rights reserved by Leo J. Shapiro