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Why Simple Answers Won't Work

Don Mize
© 2005, Don Mize

The Industrial Revolution continues to change American society.  For
example, the modern family has been reduced to child care and to meeting
the sexual and emotional needs of the adults.  In fact, even child care is
increasingly being done outside the family through day care centers and
pre-school education.  Contrast the modern family with the Pre-Industrial
Revolution family.

For the 5000 years before the Industrial Revolution (began in England in
the 18th century), the family was the unit of production.  The family may
have produced goods to sell outside the home, but the family remained
largely self-sufficient, making clothing and growing food, for example.  
Extended families dominated the agrarian society with older members
doing child care and physically less demanding tasks.  Decisions affected
the whole family and were made within the family.  Education also
occurred within the family.

We cannot turn back from the effects of the Industrial Revolution; i.e.,
we cannot return to a family-centered agrarian society.  Production, by
and far, takes place outside the home and family members earn wages to
support the family as a unit of consumption.  Moreover, outside forces
dominate the family.  In an industrial society, for example, agricultural
workers decrease to a small percentage of the population due to increased
efficiency of agricultural production; blue collar factory workers become
white collar workers in a service industry as machines replace hands; and
white collar workers watch computers replace years of knowledge and
developed skills.

Knowledge and education become essential, but education is tempted to
become training, a shortsighted view.  Limiting education to training will
not produce the theoretical knowledge of pure science necessary for
future advances in technology.  In addition, reducing education to training
will not produce a people who can think, evaluate, and understand the
historical moment in which they live.  A clever propaganda machine can
easily exploit such a people devoid of a liberal arts education.

We must face the operative force in the Industrial Revolution: machines
replace people, requiring fewer people to perform the same tasks more
efficiently.  The Post-Industrial Society is debatable because the same
forces operate in the service industry.  For example, software will one
day allow self-diagnosis of illnesses where currently physicians must
perform that function.  Teaching machines (computers) will increasingly
replace teachers.

Thus, white-collar workers are now experiencing the same phenomena
that blue-collar workers have experienced.  Now white-collar workers
watch years of skill and experience disappear into a computer in the hands
of a less educated and well-trained person who does not even understand
how the computer works.  Often the lower paid worker operating the
machine lives in a Third World country.  Multinational corporations will
continue to ship jobs to countries where lower wages are accepted.  In
addition, multinational corporations will continue declare their profits in
countries with low tax rates, exporting not only jobs but also tax revenue.  
Rather than a new Post-Industrial Society, we are seeing the Industrial
Revolution extended into the so-called service sector.

Still, we cannot turn back.  Once a society begins to industrialize, the old
agrarian system disappears.  Smokestacks and white collars, cities and
suburbs, mutating families and new social systems replace the old way of
life.  The old cosmos has ceased to exist.

In other words, the old agrarian family-centered system is gone.  Either
private enterprise creates the new systems (child care, education, health
care, a place for the elderly) or the government must provide the new
system.  Private charities, secular or religious, must depend on
contributions from private enterprise and/or government, not significantly
alternating the equation.  Since it is in the interest of private enterprise to
keep wages low, a large segment of the population will always find it
impossible to replace the disintegrated agrarian family-centered system by
purchasing the same services on the open market.

In Third World countries being reached by the inescapable Industrial
Revolution, the old agrarian system built around the extended family has
become obsolete while neither private enterprise nor government services
have created a workable replacement.  In these countries, some affluent,
sophisticated, well-educated people prosper while others live in sprawling
slums.  Such countries experience great political instability.

While private enterprise may be the first choice, government funded
programs to produce a well-educated (public school system), a healthy
(public health care system), and a motivated population (civil rights,
human rights, employment opportunities, adequate housing opportunities,
religious freedom) is still a better alternative than social chaos.  Unless
private enterprise becomes especially creative or we get over our aversion
to government programs, we face a future America dominated by palaces
and cardboard shanties.  Yet, we have no simple answers.

Modern systems in America are largely impotent.  Most government
programs do not work because they are so under-funded that needed
resources simply are not available.  Private enterprise is completely
profit-oriented, eliminating those who cannot pay market prices for
services or products.  In the current political climate of smaller
government and minimum taxes, government money flowing to religious
and secular charities will eventually cease.  Still, there is no turning back
from the inescapable permeation of the Industrial Revolution.  We need to
look beyond current modern systems.

Only if we adopt an ethic of love and treat every member of society as we
would like to be treated will we have any hope of creating a new social
system that both works and enhances human life (Matthew 7:12).  The
solution begins with a decision to love.
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