Gleanings From The Past #1

Distribution of Work

Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?

— Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays, 1935


In the year 1819, as a cat belonging to Mr. W. Allwork of Goudhurst, was prowling through the meadows, it was observed to kill a partridge, and, on examining the spot, a nest was found, containing eighteen eggs, which were taken up and that evening deposited in an oven that had been recently used. On the following morning, when the oven was opened, the whole of the eggs were found hatched, and the young ones running about, but in catching them three were unfortunately killed; the remaining fifteen were put into the nest, and placed in the meadow where it was taken from on the preceding evening. In a short time the old cock partridge was attracted to the spot, and in a few minutes it departed with the whole brood, in the presence of several persons; since that time they have been frequently seen by the gamekeeper of T. Wallis, Esq.

The Lancaster Gazette [Lancaster, Lancashire], July 31, 1819


In our disturbed and uncertain age, not knowing where we are going, how and if we shall get there, the least we can do in our common predicament is to treat one another with a certain amount of respect. It is more important and more urgent today to teach our children this humble form of tolerance — courtesy and good manners are nothing else but that— than to try to convince them that capitalism is better than communism, or vice versa. If history has proved something, it is that means and ways are more important than the distant ends.

— Romian Gary, “Triumph of Rudeness”, cited in Clifton Fadiman, Party of Twenty: Informal Essays from Holiday Magazine, 1963

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