A Jeffersonian Perspective

Imagine Thomas Jefferson somehow finding a copy of this issue of Modern Machine Shop. He would not only be intrigued with today's methalworking technology, but also he would be pleased with the role played by owners and managers of America's shops and plants.

Columns From: 11/1/1996 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Mark Albert

Mark has been writing his Mark: My Word column every month since January, 1981.

Imagine Thomas Jefferson somehow finding a copy of this issue of Modern Machine Shop. He would not only be intrigued with today's methalworking technology, but also he would be pleased with the role played by owners and managers of America's shops and plants.

That his young America would someday grow up to be a world leader in manufacturing would surely gratify him. In his day, the future of the United States was not at all assured. Threats to its very existence were real and not far removed. Moreover, the prospects for the people of this fledgling nation were questionable. He knew the country was dependent on foreign sources of finished goods and had only limited means for buying those goods.

As it is, our national defense is secure, thanks to the weaponry our industry produces for a valiant and well-trained military. Likewise, these shops and plants represent an immense capacity to change raw materials into useful products, thereby creating wealth and prosperity.

Jefferson was not always a great fan of manufacturing and factories. He believed that "working the earth" was a far better way to develop character and virtue. The "gentleman farmer" made the ideal citizen of a democratic republic, he said.

Looking at this magazine, Jefferson might discover that many shop owners and plant managers are very much like the ideal citizens he envisioned. They take a keen, active interest in local and national government. Their vigilance against abuses of power protects every person. They have a vital stake in the education of young people and the competency of schools. Peace among nations, a prerequisite to trade, is something they work to preserve. For the sake of a productive workplace, they seek to resolve racial, ethnic, and social tensions.

Technology and applied science are an abiding interest to them, because they are often the keys to competitiveness. They have to look to developing the talents and creativity of their workforce.

In short, Thomas Jefferson would recognize and approve of the "civilizing influence" exerted by America's job shops and manufacturing firms. What would perplex and dismay him, however, is that this influence is so little regarded by American society at large.

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