Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also become more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present--and is gravely to be guarded.
Yet in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of logical elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to
integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles
of our democratic system--ever aiming toward the supreme goals
of our free society.
Dwight D. Eisenhower,
"Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People, January 17, 1961"
Soviet physics flourished.... The nuclear project protected
Soviet physics, and this had a broader social and political significance.
The conditions that Kapitsa had argued, in his letter to Khrushchev,
were necessary for a healthy scientific community--willingness
to speak out, and decisions based on the community's opinion--were
also conditions required for democracy, or at least for a "public
sphere" in which public opinion could be formed, and decisions
taken, on the basis of open discussion.... The scientific community--and
especially the physics community--was, for all its failings, the
closest thing to civil society in the Stalinist regime. The scientist--or
at least scientists like Frenkel, Kapitsa, Tamm, Vernadskii, and
later Sakharov--was the nearest approximation to a citizen that
could be found in Soviet society. The scientist as citizen was
a figure of great significance for the society as a whole. In
providing protection for Soviet physics, the bomb had done something
more: it had helped to protect a small element of civil society
in a state that strove for totalitarian control over the life
David Holloway, Stalin and the Bomb ( 1994)
The sophisticated thinking of Washington officials about power,
freedom, and prosperity does not alone explain why the United
States waged the Cold War as it did. Anti-Communism resonated
with the American people. It provided a framework for understanding
a complicated world with which few Americans had much experience.
Anti-communism also could be used and manipulated by a wide variety
of groups and interests to serve more limited domestic goals.
Melvyn P. Leffler, The Specter of Communism (1994)
Foreign politics demands scarcely any of the qualities which
are peculiar to a democracy; they require, on the contrary, the
perfect use of almost all those in which it is deficient. Democracy
is favorable to the increase of the internal resources of the
state; it diffuses wealth and comfort, promotes public spirit,
and fortifies the respect for law in all classes of society....
But a democracy can only with great difficulty regulate the details
of an important undertaking, persevere in a fixed design, and
work out its execution in spite of serious obstacles. It cannot
combine its measures with secrecy or wait their consequences with
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)