Read LETTING THE CROWD BE BEAUTIFUL - IRON MACHINES - CHAPTER IX of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on


I would not have, if I could afford it, a thing in my house that is not hand-made.  I have come to believe that machinery is going to make it possible for everybody to have hand-made things in their homes, things that have been made by people who love to make them, and by people who, thinks to the machines, are soon bound to have time to make them.  Some will have gifts for hand-made furniture, others for hand-made ideas.  Perhaps people will even have time for sitting down to enjoy hand-made ideas, to enjoy hand-made books-and enjoy reading books by hand.  We may have time for following an author in a book in the slow, old, deep, loving, happy, hand-made fashion we used to know-when we have enough machines.

It looks as if it might be something like this.

Every man is going to spend his mornings in the basement of society, taking orders and being a servant and executing automatically, like a machine if need be, the will of the world, making what the world wants in the way it wants it, expressing society and subordinating himself.  In the afternoon he shall come up out of the basement, and take his stand on the ground floor of the world, stop being a part of the machinery, and be a man, express himself and give orders to himself and do some work he loves to do in the way he loves to do it, express his soul in his labour, and be an artist.  He will not select his work in the morning, or select his employer, or say how the work shall be done.  He will himself be selected, like a young tree or like an iron nail, because he is the best made and best fitted thing at hand to be used in a certain place and in a certain way.

When the man has been selected for his latent capacities, his employer sets to work on him scientifically and according to the laws of physics, hygiene, conservation of energy, the laws of philosophy, human nature, heredity, psychology, and even metaphysics, teaches the man how to hold his hands, how to lift, how to sit down, how to rest, and how to breathe, so that three times as much work can be got out of him as he could get out of himself.  A mind of the highest rank and, if necessary, thirty minds of the highest rank, shall be at his disposal, shall be lent him to show him how his work can be done.  The accumulated science and genius, the imagination and experience, of hundreds of years, of all climates, of all countries, of all temperaments shall be heaped up by his employers, gathered about the man’s mind, wrought through his limbs, and help him to do his work.

All labour down in the basement of society shall be skilled labour.  The brains of men of genius and of experts shall be pumped into labour from above until every man in the basement shall earn as much money in three hours a day as he formerly had earned in nine.

Between the time a man saves by having machinery and the time he saves by having the brains of great men and geniuses to work with, it will be possible for men to do enough work for other people down in the basement of the world in a few hours to shut the whole basement up, if we want to, by three o’clock.  Every man who is fit for it shall spend the rest of his time in planning his work himself and in expressing himself, and in creating hand-made and beautiful, inspired and wilful things like an artist, or like a slowed-down genius, or at least like a man or like a human being.

Every man owes it to society to spend part of his time in expressing his own soul.  The world needs him.  Society cannot afford to let him merely give to it his feet and his hands.  It wants the joy in him, the creative desire in him, the slow, stupid, hopeful initiative, in him to help run the world.  Society wants to use the man’s soul too-the man’s will.  It is going to demand the soul in a man, the essence or good-will in him, if only to protect itself, and to keep the man from being dangerous.  Men who have lost or suppressed their souls, and who go about cursing at the world every day they live in it, are not a safe, social investment.

But while every man is going to see that he owes it to society to use a part of his time in it in expressing himself, his own desires, in his own way, he is going to see also that he owes it to society to spend part of his time in expressing others and in expressing the desires and the needs of others.  The two processes could be best effected at first probably by alternating, by keeping the man in equilibrium, balancing the mechanical and the spiritual in his life.  Eventually and ideally, he will manage to have time in a higher state of society to put them together, to express in the same act at the same time, and not alternating or reciprocally, himself and others.  And he will succeed in doing what the great and free artist does already.  He will make his individual self-expression so great and so generous that it is also the expression of the universal self.  Every man will be treated according to his own nature.  Doubtless some men have not brains enough in a week to supply them for one hour a day of self-directed work.  It would take them five hours a day to think how to do one hour’s worth of work.  Men who prefer, as many will, not to think, and who like the basement better, can substitute in the basement for their sons, and buy if they like, the freedom of sons who prefer thinking, who would like to work harder than their fathers would care to work, up on the ground floor of the world.  But as time goes on, it is to be hoped that every man will climb up slowly, and will belong less and less of his time to the staff that borrows brains, and more and more of his time to the staff that hands brains down, and that directs the machinery of the world.  The time of alternation in dealing with different callings will probably be adjusted differently, and might be made weeks instead of days, but the principle would be the same.  The forces that are going to help, apparently, in this evolution will be the labour exchange-the centre for the mobilization of labour, the produce exchange, the inventor’s spirit in the labour unions and employers’ associations, and the gradual organization by inventors of the common vision of all men, and setting it at work on the supreme task of modern life-the task of drawing out, evoking each particular man in the world, and in behalf of all, freeing him for his own particular place.