Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some Thoughts from "The Mainspring of Human Progress"

Progress! We all want to make some progress, don't we? One of the most interesting books I've ever read was written by Henry Grady Weaver titled "The Mainspring of Human Progress." He had read Rose Wilder Lane's book "The Discovery of Freedom" and asked her if he could use it. And he notes that his book is almost a condensation of hers. Her book is also fascinating.
I'll give you some of the information in the book and you can decide if you'd like to read it. I give you more, because of the questions addressed that we are all interested in answering.
The Questions
1) Why did men die of starvation for 6,000 years? Why is it that we in America have never had a famine?

2) Why did men walk and carry goods (and other men)on their straining backs for 6,000 years--then suddenly, on only a small part of the earth's surface, the forces of nature are harnessed to do the bidding of the humblest citizens?

3) Why did families live for 6,000 years in caves and floorless hovels, without windows or chimneys--then within a few generations, we in America take floors, rugs, chairs, tables, windows, and chimneys for granted and regard electric lights, refrigerators, running water, porcelain baths, and toilets as common necessities?

4) Why did men, women, and children eke out their meager existence for 6,000 years, toiling desperately from dawn to dark--barefoot, half-naked, unwashed, unshaved, uncombed, with lousy hair, mangy skins, and rotting teeth--then suddenly, in one place on earth there is an abundance of such things as rayon underwear, nylon hose, shower baths, safety razors, ice cream sodas, lipsticks, and permanent waves?

What Are the Anwers?

It's incredible, if we would but pause to reflect! Swiftly, in less than a hundred years, Americans have conquered the darkness of night--from pine knots and candles to kerosene lamps, to gas jets; then to electric bulbs, neon lights, fluorescent tubes.

We have created wholly new and astounding defenses against weather--from fireplaces to stoves, furnaces, automatic burners, insulation, air conditioning.

We are conquering pain and disease, prolonging life, and resisting death itself--with anesthetics, surgery, sanitation, hygiene, dietetics.

We have made stupendous attacks on space--from ox-carts, rafts, and canoes to railroads, steamboats, streetcars, subways, automobiles, trucks, busses, airplanes--and attacks on time through telegraph, telephone, and radio. (I could add to that list. This book was first published in 1947.)

We have moved from backbreaking drudgery into the modern age of power, substituting steam, electricity, and gasoline for the brawn of man; and today the nuclear physicist is taking over and finding ways for subduing to human uses the infinitesimally tiny atom--tapping a new source of power so vast that it bids fair to dwarf anything that has gone before.

It is true that many of these developments originated in other countries. But new ideas are of little value in raising standards of living unless and until something is done about them. The plain fact is that we in America have outdistanced the world in extending the benefits of inventions and discoveries to the vast majority of people in all walks of life.

This is Tuesday and you are already having a good week! Great! I'll give you more of this tomorrow.


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