Chapter 39 (Book II): Neck Between Two Heads: a Story of Civilization and Superstition
  • What Freedom Fosters (a small sampling)

    Chapter 39

    The engine that ultimately powers civilization is not science or technology or currency — all of which are side-effects, by-products — and neither is it government nor God nor gods nor devils nor witches nor any other superstition. The engine that powers civilization and all human progress is the legal recognition of the right to produce and trade.

    The fundamental social phenomena is the division of labor.

    The engine that powers civilization is voluntary exchange.

    The impulse to trade is rooted in the human mind; it is sourced in the brain’s capacity to reason. Humans alone among all earthen creatures are the only species who engage in trade. It is a distinguishing and defining characteristic of homo-sapiens — the impulse to truck, barter, and exchange — and it is this and nothing else which creates the division of labor.

    From the dawn of humankind, the process of voluntary exchange has sparked all subsequent human progress and has built civilization. It is civilization. Trade singlehandedly created human flourishing, just as, for the same reason and by means of the exact same principle, it is the ever-increasing free-exchange of ideas that creates new ideas and endless innovation, and it continues to create it, and it always will, until it is snuffed out by force and the purveyors of force: the people who want to control and command the freedom to exchange.

    Justine worked without surcease.

    She worked to promulgate and disseminate Jon Silverthorne’s ideas, and for her work she was misquoted, mischaracterized, misrepresented, maligned, denigrated, demeaned, threatened, and harassed. The blowback did not dim her light, nor put out her fire. On the contrary, it fueled it. It ignited her. She tossed her head back and laughed. She continued. She worked longer and longer, and the longer she worked, the more she began to see that with the razorblade of Jon’s ideas, she’d barely scraped the top-layer beneath which, like the earth itself, lay seven-thousand miles of packed and stratified thought.

    Against her, meanwhile, the hostility intensified, yet she had one thing on her side that her detractors did not have: she had the truth.

    Truth is knowledge.

    Early one evening, in an in-studio radio interview she was invited to give, Justine spoke at length about the astonishing range of labor-amplifying, labor-saving devices invented between 1750 and 1900 — inventions which, as she said, enabled humans to produce more, earn more, spend more, save more, and live longer, better lives, with their children far more likely to survive into adulthood.

    She spoke of how, through human ingenuity, together with the process of voluntary exchange and the right to keep the fruits of what you produce and trade, undreamed of innovations were brought into existence, the class-system instantly and simultaneously abolished, so that soon even the poor were living at levels unobtainable by royalty and the richest humans in the world a mere seventy-five years previous, and for all of human history leading up to then.

    During this interview, the radio-station phone-lines lit up like a birthday cake, and to one antagonistic caller, who chastised Justine for promoting pollution and externalities, Justine replied that, first, we should never forget the fact — if we ever knew it at all — that pre-enlightenment eras had neither the understanding nor the philosophy nor the practical knowledge nor the wealth to concern themselves with air-quality or sanitation or water purification or hygiene or working conditions: that the source of, for instance, cholera was not discovered until the middle 1800s; that it was only technological knowledge, she said, which unshackled the human mind and brought about this understanding and awareness, as it was only the advance of civilization which created the wealth necessary to alleviate the vast swaths of filth and death and disease and famine that overwhelmed the world, as it still overwhelms much of the developing world today, and for the same reason.

    Justine asked the radio caller if he knew that the United States had never once experienced a famine, and she asked: why was this?

    She received no answer.

    She said that the most important thing of all to remember is the following: as long as the capital base of any society remains low, the means of dealing with societal issues remains proportionally low.

    She said that this principle is of the most vital importance to grasp.

    The following week, in a magazine article, quoting at length from Jon Silverthorne’s manuscript, she documented and detailed and elaborated upon the extraordinary outpouring of creation and ingenuity, beginning around 1800, which came flooding out of the world’s newfound freedom-of-industry and the legally recognized right to voluntary exchange and to keep the fruits of this process, all of which the Enlightenment knowledge had fostered.

    Justine wrote of a woman named Emilie du Châtelet, a half-forgotten genius of the Enlightenment whom Jon admired, and who demonstrated that the kinetic energy of an object was proportional to its mass and the square of its velocity, who postulated a conservation law for the total energy of a system, who, while she was Voltaire’s friend, equal, and mistress, singlehandedly translated Issac Newton’s exceptionally complicated Principia Mathematica from Latin to French.

    She wrote that Newton alone had brought about the scientific aspects of the Enlightenment — and how? By systematizing and specifying the power of induction, she wrote, which is among the greatest and most important intellectual achievement in human history.

    Justine wrote of antibiotics — how they’d been used for millennia to treat infections — but it wasn’t until the late-nineteenth century that scientific ideas culminated to the point of identifying bacteria as the source of infections. She wrote of a doctor named Ehrlich who in 1909 discovered that a chemical called arsphenamine was an effective treatment for syphilis, and this, she said, is considered the first antibiotic — though the word “antibiotic” was not coined until 1942, some thirty-three years later, by the Ukrainian-American inventor and microbiologist Selman Waksman, who in his lifetime discovered over twenty antibiotics, after Alexander Fleming haphazardly discovered penicillin, the medical significance of which cannot be overstated.

    Justine wrote of Charles Darwin.

    She wrote of Thomas Telford, “the father of civil engineering,” who forever revolutionized travel — who, without government intervention, made canals and built roads all across Great Britain.

    John McAdam who invented the first asphalt, which is still known today as “macadam.”

    James Watt who made steam engines.

    Trevithick who made locomotives.

    Congreve who made rockets.

    Bramah who made hydraulic presses.

    Cartwright who made the power-loom.

    Maudslay who invented machine tools.

    Davy who invented the miner’s lamp.

    Jenner who created the smallpox vaccine.

    Marion Donovan who invented the first disposable diaper.

    She wrote of Inge Lehmann, a Dutch seismologist who, unbeknownst to almost everyone, discovered the earth’s inner-core, and yet she remains in obscurity.

    In a different article, for a nationally syndicated newspaper, Justine wrote of American creators and inventors:

    She wrote of Samuel Morse and his telegraph, which forever changed human communication.

    She wrote of Thomas Edison and his quadruplex telegraph, which improved upon Samuel Morse’s invention, and which itself owed a great deal to a forgotten fellow named Joseph Henry — just as Edison’s lightbulb owed so much to the ideas and prototypes of Joseph Swan, in England, and a Russian named Alexander Lodygin.

    She wrote of Edison inventing the first microphone, as well as the phonograph, which was his favorite of all his many inventions — including waxpaper, of which Edison was also proud.

    She wrote of Marie Curie and the discoveries she made concerning Polonium and Radium.

    She wrote of the invention of the skyscraper, in Chicago, city of the big shoulders, and of the little-known problem these early engineers faced with elevators, which was solved by the extraordinary ideas of one Elisha Graves.

    She wrote about an ingenious engineer named William Lebaron Jenney, who erected “the first building of true skyscraper design or cage-construction,” and she wrote of the renowned architect Louis Sullivan, who worked for Jenney, and who took the skyscraper to the next level — and who best represents Chicago rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the great fire.

    She wrote of a once-penniless Andrew Carnegie, a rags-to-riches story if ever there was one, who solved the problem of creating affordable steel in mass quantities, and whose regimented and legendary philanthropy was only made possible by the wealth he created through his ideas, his industry, his sheer hard-work.

    She wrote of suspension bridges, their invention and perfection — which, as she wrote, was an enormous human achievement. She wrote at length of John Roebling and his eternal masterpiece that will take its place among the greatest human structures ever built, in any era, and is still to this day copied and upheld as a model of engineering: the Brooklyn Bridge. She wrote of how before the Brooklyn Bridge, this same man, truly one of the great creators in all human history, built bridges and aqueducts all across the northeast, all privately, and how he fought interminable wars against local governments to have his traffic-expediting inventions constructed, how his ideas and the inventions that came from them forever altered the world. She wrote of how tirelessly this man worked, how blindingly bright his genius, in spite of internal sickness and external forces hammering away at him like chisel blows.

    She wrote of Josephine Cochrane, who developed the first commercially successful dishwasher.

    She wrote of Cyrus McCormick and his invention, in Virginia, which he called the “reaping machine” — a device that yielded, in a way the world had never seen, higher food production at much lower costs, for humanity.

    She wrote of Elias Howe and the sewing machine, and she wrote of Issac Singer’s improvement upon Howe’s invention.

    She wrote of Margaret Knight who invented a machine that folded and glued the flat-bottomed brown paper bags which we still use today.

    She wrote of Charles Goodyear who pioneered the process of vulcanization, which made rubber useful.

    She wrote of a man named Hymen Lipman, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who, shortly after Charles Goodyear perfected the process of curing rubber through vulcanization, attached the first rubber eraser to the back-end of a pencil.

    She wrote of Jane Cooke Wright, an oncologist of great thoughtfulness, who trail-blazed the use of chemotherapy with a drug called methotrexate to treat breast cancer and skin cancer.

    She wrote of George Westinghouse and his invention of the “railroad frog” — who also went on to develop hundreds of other innovations, acquiring over the arc of his life more than four-hundred patents, and who, in collaboration with a brilliant Croatian immigrant named Nikolai Tesla, pioneered the use of the alternating current — while Tesla alone invented the AC induction generator, which was the first practical motor-power by alternating current. Justine also described how Tesla had then sold this invention to Westinghouse, and how together these men demonstrated that alternating current was able to generate electrical power over great distances, much more economically than Thomas Edison’s direct current, and which, through free-enterprise and the process of creative-destruction, won out even over Edison’s established name and reputation. Justine said that this was one of the many beautiful things about the free exchange of ideas and goods and services.

    She wrote of George Eastman, who revolutionized photography and the camera and who, along with an entrepreneur named Henry Strong, founded a company called Eastman Kodak, whose use of roll-film was also the basis for the invention of motion pictures, in 1888, by the world’s first filmmakers, Eadweard Muybridge and Louis Le Prince — both of whom were much admired by Thomas Edison, the Lumière Brothers, Georges Méliès, among others.

    She wrote of Alice Parker who first conceived the system of gas-powered central heating.

    She wrote of Charles and Frank Duryea who built the first car, which came about because of experiments by German and French engineers who’d been toying with gas-powered locomotion for years.

    She wrote of Henry Ford, who made this “automobile-invention” commercially tenable.

    She wrote of two bicycle mechanics from Ohio, brothers, who were self-taught in the principles of aeronautical engineering — Wilbur and Orville Wright — and who accomplished the first human-powered flight of “a man-made vessel that weighed more than the air,” and in so accomplishing this drastically altered human travel forever and for the better.

    She spoke of an articulate young man who worked as an assistant bookkeeper and who was a great lover of music, who, along with his brother William and an investor named Henry Flagler, became one of the greatest creators and philanthropists and businessmen in the history of the world — whose name was John Davison Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil: the harnessing of an energetic order that went on to power virtually every other industry.

    She wrote of Willis Carrier, who invented air-conditioning, and Robert Goddard, who launched the first liquid-fueled rocket.

    Edwin Armstrong, who created FM radio, and Philo Farnsworth, who invented “the image dissector tube,” which made possible the first all-electronic television technology, and whose chief rival was a young man named David Sarnoff, who understood that “content was as important as equipment” — and thus went on to found a television broadcasting company called NBC.

    She wrote of an utterly brilliant boy named George Washington Carver, born into slavery and dire poverty, and of a weak and sickly constitution, and yet an indefatigable worker with an indomitable will, who eschewed and fought furiously against the idea of victimhood — and won — who was employed for forty-seven years by the equally indomitable and brilliant Booker T. Washington, and who completely altered agricultural science by developing a new hybrid of cotton, as well as pioneering peanuts and sweet potatoes, among a great many other things, and who, through his discoveries and his profound understanding of soil improvement, persuaded southern farmers to grow other crops besides cotton: George Washington Carver who, as Justine quoted, “was among the first to understand that in everything which grew was locked the chemical magic that humans could forge to their use, not for food alone but for industrial progress as well.”

    In the end, Justine wrote not just of these inventions but of the independent thinking that produced the ideas behind them, the sheer hours and amplitude for work these humans and so many others had performed in order to achieve such accomplishments — to provide better lives for themselves and their families — the unimaginable days and weeks and months and the years of poverty and anonymous study, the solitary toil, the incessant thinking, the turmoil, the discouragement and frustration — and the successes.

    “Successes,” she wrote, “which we each benefit from beyond any easy calculation, because of the civilization and prosperity these individual human beings created through their ideas and the exchange of those ideas — the direct and demonstrable result of the right to keep the fruits of what their intelligence and ingenuity created, which people voluntarily pay for.”

    She wrote:

    “What thing, unique in history, gave rise to such an unprecedented wellspring of ideas, which in turn gave rise to such a spectacular outpouring of human creativity the likes of which the world has never seen, before or since? And why is it taken-for-granted and even more: detested? Why was it forsaken in the first place? Why supplanted by the idea of forced government-or-worker-control of property and wealth-redistribution for the sake of ‘equality’ — surely among the greatest incentive-destroyers ever conceived? Why the fashionable popularity of a deadly philosophy: egalitarianism-by-force? Why the constant drumbeat of pessimism and catastrophe which history has proven false over and over and over again and yet which, despite its almost endless list of failures, drowns out the overwhelming triumph of progress, which comes from the unfettered exchange of ideas?”


    January 21st, 2021 | journalpulp | No Comments |

About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning as the constant in my life.

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