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Tag Archives: Capitalism

A Nation of Laws

‘Next!’ (Cartoon by Udo J. Keppler, Puck Magazine)

Who is left to uphold [the law]? The lawyers? Some of the best lawyers in this country are hired, not to go to court to defend cases, but to advise corporations and business firms how they can get around the law without too great a risk of punishment. The judges? Too many of them so respect the laws that for some ‘error’ or quibble they restore to office and liberty men convicted on evidence overwhelmingly convincing to common sense. The churches? We know of one…which had to be compelled by… a health officer to put its tenements in sanitary condition. The colleges? They do not understand. There is no one left; none but all of us.

Editorial by Samuel McClure, McClure’s Magazine, January 1903 (the same issue that published Ida Tarbell’s article on Standard Oil and Ray Stannard Baker’s exposé of union practices) — DA

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Tendency of the Times

From THE INTERNATIONAL RAILWAY JOURNAL
(A MAGAZINE DEVOTED TO THE INTERESTS OF RAILROADS, STEAMSHIP LINES AND THE TRAVELING PUBLIC)

May, 1903

‘What is the tendency of the times? It is to cease less effort. It is to over-work, over-application, under-enjoyment, under-thinking. The tendency is to make ourselves the machines of business and trade, to always, subordinate our higher capacities and talents to the main purpose of living.

‘A great deal could be said along this line of thought. Every man knows he is a slave — a slave of circumstances, a slave of environments, a slave to ambition, and a slave to the highest inspiration within him. Everywhere is effort unremitting, ceaseless, unsatisfactory. We work every day in the year in a sense, we work while we rest, we work at rest.  Our rest is a mere form of work; it is a delusion; we imagine we are resting when we are simply deceiving ourselves; we make a toil of rest. Our whole civilization is built on one strain to accomplish, to do, to progress, to make the most.

‘But, after all, are we not losing sight of any chance? Our railroad trains run every day in the year, our ticket offices are open from morning to night, our mills, shops and factories run from early Monday morning until Saturday, and merely rest long enough to permit the heat of friction to evaporate. Our stores are crowded, our business offices are open early and late, telephonic and telegraphic wires are kept hot with the babel and gabble of trade, our streets are crowded with rushing pedestrians, our street cars are crowded to suffocation with anxious travelers, our theatres are jammed and packed with excited spectators, who imagine they are enjoying a relaxation. Excursion trains are flying, Sundays and Satur days, to afford people an opportunity to take their eyes away from desks, counters, kitchens, ceilings and floors and from trade and commerce, and from all the pesky and demoralizing influences that go to fill lip our lives.

‘Everything is strenuous. We are tearing our lives to pieces, straining our bodies, thinking of nothing but what pertains to the immediate present, grasping and struggling like idiots, and complimenting ourselves that we live in the greatest country in the world and in the greatest age. We imagine we are scientific, progressive, enlightened, and are doing everything just right. We are tearing through life as though death was something to be reached as soon as possible. Fortunately, however, religion and custom and necessity have made it necessary to slow down once in seven days. But that slowing down is hypocriti cal. We slow down in order that we may start up again with renewed energy, and we tear through each successive week as though life was made up of struggle, and as if there was no room for anything else. We work and we worry and we strain and stretch and imagine that by taking one day of rest we are doing our whole duty to ourselves.

‘Perhaps we are right, but it does seem to the quiet observer that a great deal of this strenuous life is strenuous nonsense. We are forgetting humanity and the purpose of living; we are putting too much ammunition in our gun. In some respects the tramp has more sense. While this example cannot be com mended, yet we might learn a valuable lesson from him. From his standpoint, he gets more out of life than a good many of the rest of us. Where is it to end? For what purpose all this rush ? Why this ceaseless struggle ? These are hard questions to answer.

‘We are told that machinery is increasing the production of things in general; but the more machinery, mills and factories that we build the harder we seem to have to work to get our pound of butter, our loaf of bread, our coat and hat and our street-car fare. When the register of wills makes note of our purse, the amount he finds does not seem to warrant the 30, 40 or 50 years’ struggle to leave it. What we need to learn is to learn how to live, without sacrificing all that is noble and great within us. It is a truth that we subordinate our higher selves to our lower selves. We subordinate the end to the means. We think more of the going than the getting there. We forget that the real purpose of life is development and not dollars.’ — DA (Courtesy of Google Books)

 

Replace or Exchange?

Each of us is replaceable; none of us is interchangeable. – DA

Cranberries and Capitalism

Americans are often obsessed with big dreams, economic success and getting ahead. Our history includes capitalist icons like J.D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. But it also includes Henry David Thoreau.

The Virtues of Daydreaming  (Jonah Lehrer in the New Yorker)

What Money Can’t Buy by Michael Sandel (B&N Review)

New:  Leisure and Productivity, essay by Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Chokecherries & Wild Grapes on the Erie Canal

Chokecherries & Wild Grapes on the Erie Canal (Lanigan)

From Wild Fruits (Thoreau on Cranberrying):

I expected little of this walk, yet it did pass through the side of my mind that perhaps, on this very account it would turn out well, as also the advantage of having a purpose, however small, to be accomplished — of letting your deliberate wisdom and foresight, however small, in the house to some extent direct and control your steps… I have always reaped unexpected and incalculable advantages from carrying out at last, however tardily, any little enterprise which my genius suggested to me long ago as a thing to be done, some step to be take, however slight, out of the usual course….

Our employment generally is tinkering, mending the old worn-out teapot of society… Many of our days should be spent, not in vain expectations and lying on our oars, but in carrying out deliberately and faithfully the hundred little purposes which every man’s genius must have suggested to him. Let your life not be wholly without object, though it is only to ascertain the flavor of a cranberry, for it will not be only the quality of an insignificant berry that you will have tasted, but the flavor of your life to that extent, and it will be such as sauce as no wealth can buy.

…I enjoyed this cranberrying very much, notwithstanding the wet and cold, and the swamp seemed to be yielding its crop to me alone, for there are none else to pluck and value it. I told the proprietor once that they grew here, but he, learning that they were not abundant enough to be gathered for the market, has probably never thought of them since. I am the only person in the township who regards them or knows of them, and I do not regard them in the light of their pecuniary value. I have no doubt I felt richer wading there with my two pockets full, treading on wonders at every step, than any farmer going to market with a hundred bushels which he had raked, or hired to be raked.

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