Looking Backward From 2000 to 1887
"It is after you have mustered your industrial army into service," I said, "that I should
expect the chief difficulty to arise, for there its analogy with a military army must cease.
Soldiers have all the same thing, and a very simple thing, to do, namely, to practice the
manual of arms, to march and stand guard. But the industrial army must learn and follow
two or three hundred diverse trades and avocations. What administrative talent can be
equal to determining wisely what trade or business every individual in a great nation shall
"The administration has nothing to do with determining that point."
"Who does determine it, then?" I asked.
"Every man for himself in accordance with his natural aptitude, the utmost pains being
taken to enable him to find out what his natural aptitude really is. The principle on which
our industrial army is organized is that a man's natural endowments, mental and physical,
determine what he can work at most profitably to the nation and most satisfactorily to
himself. While the obligation of service in some form is not to be evaded, voluntary
election, subject only to necessary regulation, is depended on to determine the particular
sort of service every man is to render. As an individual's satisfaction during his term of
service depends on his having an occupation to his taste, parents and teachers watch from
early years for indications of special aptitudes in children. A thorough study of the
National industrial system, with the history and rudiments of all the great trades, is an
essential part of our educational system. While manual training is not allowed to
encroach on the general intellectual culture to which our schools are devoted, it is carried
far enough to give our youth, in addition to their theoretical knowledge of the national
industries, mechanical and agricultural, a certain familiarity with their tools and methods.
Our schools are constantly visiting our workshops, and often are taken on long excursions
to inspect particular industrial enterprises. In your day a man was not ashamed to be
grossly ignorant of all trades except his own, but such ignorance would not be consistent
with our idea of placing every one in a position to select intelligently the occupation for
which he has most taste. Usually long before he is mustered into service a young man has
found out the pursuit he wants to follow, has acquired a great deal of knowledge about it,
and is waiting impatiently the time when he can enlist in its ranks."
"Surely," I said, "it can hardly be that the number of volunteers for any trade is exactly
the number needed in that trade. It must be generally either under or over the demand."
"The supply of volunteers is always expected to fully equal the demand," replied Dr.
Leete. "It is the business of the administration to see that this is the case. The rate of
volunteering for each trade is closely watched. If there be a noticeably greater excess of
volunteers over men needed in any trade, it is inferred that the trade offers greater
attractions than others. On the other hand, if the number of volunteers for a trade tends to