DAVID LILIENTHAL DEFENDS THE
[TVA Director David Lilienthal wrote the following in praise of this New Deal initiative.]
The spirit in which the task is undertaken; its purpose, whether for the welfare of the many or the few; the methods chosen--these will determine whether men will live in freedom and peace, whether their resources will be speedily exhausted or will be sustained, nourished, made solid beneath their feet not only for themselves but for the generations to come.
The physical achievements that science and technology now make possible may bring no benefits, may indeed be evil, unless they have a moral purpose, unless they are conceived and carried out for the benefit of the people themselves. Without such a purpose, advances in technology may be disastrous to the human spirit; the industrialization of a raw material area may bring to the average man only a new kind of slavery and the destruction of democratic institutions.
But such a moral purpose alone is not enough to insure that resource development will be a blessing and not a curse. Out of TVA experience in this valley I am persuaded that to make such a purpose effective two other principles are essential. First, that resource development must be governed by the unity of nature herself. Second, that the people must participate actively in that development.
The physical job is going to be done; of that I think we can be sure. But if, in the doing, the unity of nature's resources is disregarded, the price will be paid in exhausted land, butchered forests, polluted streams, and industrial ugliness. And, if the people are denied an active part in this great task, then they may be poor or they may be prosperous but they will not be free....
The whole point of the TVA experience... is that the best way, perhaps the only way the job can be done effectively is by observing the unity of nature, by following democratic methods, by the active daily participation of the people them-selves....
We have a choice. There is the important fact. Men are not powerless; they have it in their hands to use the machine to augment the dignity of human existence. True, they may have so long denied themselves the use of that power to decide, which is theirs, may so long have meekly accepted the dictation of bosses of one stripe or another or the ministrations of benevolent nursemaids, that the muscles of democratic choice have atrophied. But that strength is always latent; history has shown how quickly it revives. How we shall use physical betterment--that decision is ours to make. We are not carried irresistibly by forces beyond our control, whether they are given some mystic term or described as the “laws of economics.” We are not inert objects on a wave of the future.
Except for saints and great ascetics, I suppose most people
would agree that poverty and physical wretchedness are evils, in and of
themselves. But because extreme poverty is an evil it does not follow that a
comfortable or a high material standard of living is good. A
Whether happiness or unhappiness, freedom or slavery, in short whether good or evil results from an improved environment depends largely upon how the change has been brought about, upon the methods by which the physical results have been reached, and in what spirit and for what purpose the fruits of that change are used. Because a higher standard of living, a greater productiveness and a command over nature are not good in and of them-selves does not mean that we cannot make good of them, that they cannot be a source of inner strength....
Democracy is a literal impossibility without faith that on balance the good in man far outweighs the evil. Every effort to cherish the overtones of human imagination in music, painting, or poetry rests upon that same faith, makes that same assumption. And so it is with what we have been seeking to do in this valley. To call it “materialistic” answers nothing. The rock upon which all these efforts rest is a faith in human beings....
There is a . . . widely held objection to such an enterprise
as we have seen in this valley. The hideous belief has been spread over the
earth that the price of material progress and freedom from want must be the
complete surrender of individual freedom. The acceptance of this doctrine has
been indeed the principal event of our lifetime. And it remains the faith of
the people of
results in the
There are few
who fail to see that modern applied science and the machine are threats to the
development of the individual personality, the very purpose of democratic institutions. It is for this
reason that the experience of the last ten years in the valley of the