Published October 1975 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd The Super-Industrial Society The developed world has moved into what experts refer to as "the age of super-industrialism"- that is an age in which society n~ longer depends primarily on agriculture or industry, but rather places its emphasis on so-called white collar, service jobs. Agriculture was the original basis of civilization, and has occupied the vast majority of the world's workers for thousands of years. But in the United States, where farms produce enough food to feed m o r e than 200 million Americans and another 160 million persons around the world, less than 6 percent of the population is now employed in agriculture. A dozen other major countries of the developed world currently employ less than 15 percent of their populations in agriculture. The industrial revolution, of course, moved workers off the farms and placed them in factories and mines and other industries. Yet, in recent years, the industrial revolution seems to have come to a halt. Ever since 1956, over half the population of the United States has been employed in so-called white collar occupations, and the percentage has been growing almost annually. America was the first nation to move to a service-oriented economy; but England, Sweden, Belgium, Canada, and the Netherlands now have populations where white collar employment outnumbers b l u e collar workers. The situation has left many social planners asking this question: "Now that we have entered the age of super-industrialism, where do we go from here?" The answer might be "Backward, rather than forward." Our energy problems have shown the need for America to increase its production of coal and other fossil fuels; the economic condition of the country has proven the need to increase industrial production as a means of fighting unemployment; and the world food situation has placed new importance on the farms of the United States. White collar, service industries will remain important, of course, because the United States and the rest of the developed world will not retreat from the modern age. But there is a likelihood that society will again place a heavy emphasis on agriculture and industrial production, and that history will show that the developed world had just a flirtation with the age of super-industrialism, rather than a lasting romance.