Dewey's Criticism Of Modern Society

Below are excerpts from John Dewey: The Later Works, 1925-1953 -- Volume 9: 1933-1934, edited by Jo Ann Boydston, published by Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale & Edwardsville, 1986).

Our "Crazy Economic System"

"The one thing uppermost in the minds of everybody to-day is the appalling existence of want in the midst of plenty, of millions of unemployed in the midst of idle billions of hoarded money and unused credit as well as factories and mills deteriorating for lack of use, of hunger while farmers are burning grain for fuel. No wonder people are asking what sort of a crazy economic system we have when at a time when millions are short of adequate food, when babies are going without the milk necessary for their growth, the best remedy that experts can think of and that the Federal Government can recommend, is to pay a premium to farmers to grow less grain with which to make flour to feed the hungry and pay a premium to dairymen to send less milk to market...

"What are the most evident sore spots of the present? The answer is clear. Unemployment; extreme inequality in the distribution of the national income; enormous fixed charges in the way of interest on debts; a crazy, cumbrous, inequitable tax system that puts the burden on the producer, and the ultimate consumer, and lets off the parasites, exploiters and the privileged, -- who ought to be relieved entirely of their gorged excess, -- very lightly, and indeed in many cases, as in that of the tariffs, pays them a premium for imposing a burden on honest industry and on the means of production; a vicious and incompetent banking system, with billions of money, the hope for the future of millions of hard-working peoples, still locked up, while the depositors lose their homes and walk the streets in vain; the greater part of our population, in the nation of the earth most favored by nature, still living in slums or homes without the improvements indispensable to a healthy and civilized life." [pages 61, 64]

Power In America

"Power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Whoever owns them rules the life of the country, not necessarily by intention, not necessarily by deliberate corruption of the nominal government, but by necessity." [page 76, from Dewey's article "Imperative Need: A New Radical Party"]

What's Needed To Restore Democracy

"In order to restore democracy, one thing and one thing only is essential. The people will rule when they have power, and they will have power in the degree they own and control the land, banks, the producing and distributing agencies of the nation. Ravings about Bolshevism, communism, socialism are irrelevant to the axiomatic truth of this statement. They come either from complaisant ignorance or from the deliberate desire of those in possession of power and rule to perpetuate their privilege...

"Events have proved that while those in private control of industry and wealth rule they do not and cannot govern. For government implies order and security at the very least. And what we have is tragic insecurity at the very least...I need not call the roll of the millions of unemployed, of the millions living scantily and precariously upon the dole of waning private charity, of the combination, that would be incredible if it were not actual, of piled up real wealth of food and goods with privation and poverty." [pages 76-77, "Imperative Need: A New Radical Party"]

Why These Problems Continue; A Solution

"This situation continues only because the mass of the people refuse to look facts in the face and prefer to feed on illusions, produced and circulated by those in power with a profusion that contrasts with their withholding of the necessities of life. The day that the mass of the American people awake to the realities of the situation, that day the restoration of democracy will commence, for power and rule will revert to the people...

"...the methods will continue and will be ready to suppress free discussion and to mislead opinion when the time for the absolutely certain movement for 'government hands off business' arrives. The power of the forces now being set in motion cannot be over-estimated.

"Upon this alternative also there is but one conclusion to be reached: The need is imperative for the immediate formation of a strong united radical third party." (Emphasis in text) [pages 77, 80]

On Technocracy & Capitalism

"I have no doubt the capitalist system will disappear in time as have other socio-economic systems. I see no signs of its immediate total collapse, in the sense of its being replaced by a definitely different system. It has many roots and bulwarks and I expect to see these disappear or be taken over one by one and not in a sensational wholesale way. This is not an expression of my hopes but of the situation as I see it. Unless Technocracy changes its present purpose quite radically I see no political future for it. It will undoubtedly have some indirect political effect but whether toward Fascism or in a socialistic direction I do not know."