Imagining Fairness: Equality and Equity of Access in Search of Democracy

By Jorge Reina Schement 1

"There is not, perhaps, a single library in America sufficiently copious to have enabled Gibbon to have verified the authorities for his immortal History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."
--attributed to Fisher Ames 2

Revolutionary hero and Federalist Fisher Ames delivered a public address in 1809 that condemned American scholarship as greatly inferior to that conducted in Europe. He further charged that Edward Gibbon could not have written his History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, had he searched all of the university libraries in the United States; because, taken together, they did not hold all of the works cited by Gibbon. This accusation inflamed John Quincy Adams who was in the audience and proud of the feats of his father's generation. Determined as always, Adams set out to prove Ames wrong; and, in the end, his search proved Ames right. The shame was too much for Adams. Stung into action, he purchased every work referred to in The Rise and Fall. All were imported and given to the public library in Quincy, Massachusetts, so that no future American Gibbon would be so stymied in the search for knowledge. 3

Sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams remains one of the great public intellectuals of the young republic. His adventure with Gibbon sought to achieve for American scholarship what had been achieved for American nationalism -- independence and equality within the world community. Despite Adam's American penchant for mixing altruism with self-interest - after all, he placed his national donation in his hometown public library -- he typifies the commitment of the nation's founders to create a society where opportunity exists for all.

Lest Adams be reduced to the single dimension of a man easily impugned, his response also arose from an appreciation of the information commons created by the generation of his parents. Adams lived within the intellectual ferment of his day, a ferment characterized by writing letters, responding, proposing, criticizing, and sharing information, known as the Republick of Letters. 4 It's most celebrated correspondents-the elder Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and Jay-shaped a vision of the new nation distinguished by the free and open flow of information, a condition upon which they themselves depended for their deliberations.

Witness this excerpt from a letter by Thomas Jefferson explaining the role of libraries as guarantors of equal opportunity. 5

Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital. 6

Jefferson himself sparred with all comers, especially with John Adams, father of John Quincy, until Jefferson's death on the same day as the elder Adams, July 4th 1826, during the presidency of the younger Adams. In those four decades, American intellectuals imagined a new country and a new society by examining every aspect of their social world and proposing new structures, new organizations, and new relationships. In effect, they began the new nation with a commitment to an information commons as the nervous system of their vision. So, while this snippet can be read as a brief opinion on the value of books to an accountant, it should be read as something far more consequential. The question of the social value of library books, and by association libraries, is a part of the question of access and of establishing an information commons in the pursuit of democracy.

In this essay, I pull Adams' resolution and Jefferson's dissection into the Information Age, a transition that manifests continuity and discontinuity. To begin with, the ideals of access and participation persist as firmly today as they did in the town square, yeoman farmer, plantation democracy of Adams', Ames', and Jefferson's day. Yet if the ideals endure, the nation's social fabric has not. In an information society of nearly one-third of a billion people, democratic participation requires access to mediated channels and often takes place between parties whose only shared experience may come from membership in the same network. Scale alone, not to mention demographic, technological, or economic change, confronts democratic discourse with a profound challenge - how can we assure access for all? Thus, my purpose here is to examine Americans' grasp of the idea of equality in contrast to equity, in order to understand the tension of access. I then briefly suggest implications for the establishment of an information commons.

Gaps Against the Promise of Democracy

The emergence of the Internet released the pent-up optimism of technology sages and futurists. For most of two decades, they augured and foretold the Saturday evening of the future where children play Star Wars on a giant screen, while Dad feeds his sports mania by firing instructions through his keyboard to multiple reflective partitions. Presumably, the family is nuclear and the technology convivial. 7

When the Internet finally arrived, it brought a future at once foreseen and unexpected. Futurists could point to households so technologically affluent that they more than fulfilled the fantasies of twenty years past. Yet the future isn't what it used to be. 8 Seven percent of households still lack technology as simple as a telephone. True, some households achieve access to the network through spectacular configurations of technology. 9 At the same time, however, social researchers reveal a bewildering population mosaic of those beyond the vista of the super connected. For example, minority households below median income lag behind majority households in telephone penetration, even when they have the same income. Whereas, minorities lag behind whites in PC ownership, Latinos appear to exhibit the highest purchasing rate. In premier cable subscriptions, African-Americans lead all other groups - as they do in the purchase of advanced telephone services. Elderly households are more likely to subscribe to a telephone than are young households with children, even in the same income bracket. Women, who for decades ceded the technological territory of computers to men, now equal men in access to the Internet. And, contrary to predictions of an increasingly homogenized culture where everyone consumes the same narrow media fare, proliferating channels set loose diverse tastes and choices. Even on prime time TV, the top ten choices for whites intersect those of African-Americans by one program only-"Monday Night Football." 10

So, while the information age city on the hill opens its promenades and bazaars to the technologically blessed, others are kept at the gate. 11 In the secular language of democracy, that gate has entered policy discourse as the digital divide. Its essence resides in the traditional American concern over the existence of social gaps. That gaps of this sort fix our attention, shouldn't surprise us. Early on in America's first declaration of national identity comes the phrase, "all men are created equal;" and then goes on to proclaim unalienable rights for all men, among which are, "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." 12 Americans have built their edifice of democracy on the interpretation of this phrase as freedom and justice for all; and, over the centuries, expanded the emphasis on all. Consequently, from time to time, national attention focuses on those Americans who might not have access to the same opportunities as their fellow citizens. The resulting discourse takes on the supposition of a "gap." 13

Americans now carry these convictions with them into the Information Age. As a basic assumption, they firmly believe that access to information and communications technologies is the primary policy tool for enabling all citizens to participate in those economic, political, and social activities fundamental to a democratic society that is also a good society. Within this logic, an accessible National Information Infrastructure (NII) is the essential ingredient for overcoming social fragmentation and enabling participation. In the Information Age, communication creates society; and, in essence, the NII creates the weave that holds us all together. Hence, when Americans observe or imagine that some are falling behind, it gives pause because it endangers the promise of democracy-thus our anxiety over gaps, especially information gaps.

Information Equality versus Information Equity

If a society claims to derive its legitimacy from "the consent of the governed," then it must offer each member the opportunity to participate in the activities of public life. 14 To acknowledge the existence of conditions where some enjoy the opportunity to participate and where others experience exclusion, full or partial, is to challenge the very claim to democracy that defines America. Yet in spite of high-minded claims, the ideal of equal access succeeds or founders on the reality; that is, on whether all citizens experience the same access to the means of participating in the discourses that guide governance. Of course, attempting to carry out any ideal in a world replete with constraints and complications invites humility and the lowering of expectations. After all, no great ideal is fully attainable; even so, the ideal of democracy sets a high bar. In the second half of the 20th century, for example, white Americans rejected lesser status for African-Americans. 15 In effect, they raised the standard, reaffirming a commitment to achieve the ideal of democracy in the real world -- an achievement for a democracy that began by limiting the vote to white males and registering slaves as three fifths of a person. Still, the real world cannot be put off. In an information society inhabited by more than a quarter billion individuals, the goal of access as the prerequisite to participation poses singular challenges. Where citizens rarely know more than a handful of neighbors, have little direct personal experience with most national issues, and learn about them from mediated sources, access to information and channels of communication becomes the gateway to democracy.

Enter scale and technology. From a half a day's walk and meeting with neighbors coming together, to the sedentary consumption of electronic images punctuated by telecommunications, the repercussions of a growing population coupled with the impact of information technologies, have transformed democratic participation beyond the wildest 18th century dream. In this latter day Digital Age, the availability of information, and the technology to process it, determine the reality of access. In other words, the ideal remains constant while new realities pose new challenges. So, having committed to equal access for all, how can we make it fair? In general, Americans have conceptualized fair access along two courses.

Equality of Access

Having begun from the assumption that all men are created equal, the logical derivation of this postulate requires that access be made available on even terms to all, thereby promoting equality of access to channels of communication and sources of information. This view derives from the concept of fairness as uniform distribution, where everyone is entitled to the same level of access and can avail themselves if they so choose. This is the version of fairness -- as uniform distribution -- that Americans hold most dearly and comfortably. They have enshrined it from the Constitution to children's playgrounds where receiving one extra piece of candy evokes the cry, "Not fair!" from a child's playmates; perhaps the most easily understood civic values are those that connect with fundamental experiences. Even so, that simple determination of fairness, so easy to understand, leads to difficult realities.

A colloid of policies - some rooted in the industrial era, others stemming from the information age - endeavor to make real the idea of equal access as uniform distribution. For example, in a complex society, functional access requires skills learned in school, especially literacy; thus, by extrapolation, if all are to experience access, then education must be provided for all as well. Consequently, amidst the many expectations heaped on them, the missions of public schools and public libraries reflect the commitment that they be open to all as an equal opportunity to achieve equal access. Similarly, Universal Service, once a policy aimed at insuring that all telephone companies interconnect with each other, evolved into a policy assuring that all Americans receive the opportunity to connect to the national telecommunications network. 16 In the 1990s, the idea of universal service as a uniform distribution took on a new dimension. The Education Rate, or E-Rate, established the premise that all schools, libraries, and rural hospitals should have access to the Internet. 17 Accordingly, public institutions whose core identities embrace equal access for all, have themselves received the promise of equal access.

Most Americans support the idea that equal access suggests fairness because it promises the same access for everyone; surely, their continued endorsement of these policies underscores their comfort. And, complex histories notwithstanding, each of these public institutions sustains a commitment of access to all. Yet each also endorses a different, less comfortable, conceptualization of fairness.

Equity of Access

The founders may have believed that all men are created equal; nonetheless, their elaborate formulations attempting to guarantee equality of access acknowledge their apprehension of the impediments faced when moving from ideal to reality. 18 Ninety years after the writing of the Constitution, the end of the Civil War and a churning industrial revolution exposed a society rapidly stratifying into poles of advantage and disadvantage. And, though some interpreted these disparities as God sent, or as nature's will to reward the fittest, the obvious consequences of privilege and exclusion threatened the promise of equal access to the discourses necessary for democratic participation. 19 By the eve of the 20th century, America comprised an intricate society defined by its divides: rural-urban; black-white; foreign born-native born; working-middle-upper class; and, in the Southwest, Mexican-Anglo. 20

In such circumstances Americans asked an old question with a new twist: "How can equal access for all exist if any group of Americans lacks the wherewithal necessary to achieve access?" In other words, though equality of access promises a level playing field, the promise fails when some Americans lack the knowledge, income, equipment, or training necessary to play the game. Thus, to continue the pursuit of a democratic ideal where all enjoy access to those public discourses through which participation becomes sovereignty, government must seek to overcome the obstacles to access experienced by affected groups, whether they be farmers, immigrants, workers, or ex-slaves. So delicate is the balance that failure to do so invalidates any claim to equality of access; and, without equality, there can be no fairness. However, this is a new "fairness;" not fairness as uniform distribution, rather it is fairness as justice -- that is, not equality of access, but equity of access. For just as there can be no fairness without equality, there can be none without justice.

History selects this view. The event that established the exclusion -- e.g., slavery, native land dispossession, rural isolation, gender discrimination -- requires remedies to redress the historic conditions that prevented or diminished access. So simple yet so unsettling, this interpretation of fairness sits uncomfortably with most Americans. Because the historic event underlies the disparity in access, it provokes revisions as some accept the diagnosis of unfairness but others reject it. The historic event provokes controversy. Depending on the interpretation imposed on the event, it may strengthen or weaken the claim of need. Witness the enduring lack of consensus on the motivations of the Confederacy for secession and war; did the South fight for states' rights or for slavery - and who should merit compensation, the states or the ex-slaves and their descendents? Similarly, consider competing theories to explain poverty; do the poor lack opportunities or do they lack motivation? Were we to attempt a list of competing explanations for groups lacking access, the list would be long indeed. The point is that the goal of equity in pursuit of equal access depends on how we judge the event in question.

Equity-as-fairness-as-justice traces its lineage to progressive liberal philosophy. In this view society should commit resources to overcome obstacles and barriers experienced by groups, in order to maximize their opportunities for access. Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, as presidential themes, owed much to valuing fairness as justice. When libraries offer literacy programs, when schools offer courses in English as a second language, and when foundations target scholarships to students from poor families, they operationalize a belief in equity of access as fairness and as justice. Similarly, rural telecommunications cross-subsidies, and the E-Rate, establish their political legitimacy by appealing to equity of access as fairness and as justice. Clearly, the desire for equity draws it strength from the same deep source as that which feeds the desire for equality. Yet Americans remain ambivalent when asked to endorse policies aiming to achieve equity of access.

Equality Against Equity

Policies that stress fairness as uniform distribution tend to succeed with Americans because they appear to entitle everyone; and, thus, reinforce Americans' dominant construction of fairness as equality. Social Security and Medicare fall into this category. Similarly, the E-Rate, despite efforts to thwart it, has survived precisely because it benefits a large constituency. Indeed, so strong is the E-Rate's association with fairness as equality, that it has survived every effort to diminish it, even re-labeling it the "Gore Tax." 21

Conversely, policies aiming to achieve equity face recurring challenges as "unfair." Affirmative Action, Lyndon Johnson's attempt to overcome generations of discrimination against women and minorities, became the law of the land without achieving the approval of Americans who saw it as "unfair" because it appeared to favor some over others; and, thus, to negate the concept of fairness as equality and as uniform distribution. Regardless of how many doors Affirmative Action opened to women and minorities, it seemed unfair and therefore worthy of opposition. Similarly, subsidy programs like Link-Up America and Lifeline, which assist poor households' access to telephone service, face resistance as "unfair." 22 To a cynic, it appears as though Americans will gladly accept a government subsidy for themselves; but should it go to someone else instead, they will resent it as "unfair." To someone committed to policy promoting equity as well as equality, this paradox poses a Herculean challenge.

Public Support of Fairness as a Challenge to Librarians

In such a world, librarians must tread carefully to achieve equality with equity; no matter the magnitude of the challenge, there can be no other social compact for librarians. In the 21st century, public librarians will achieve access for all, solely by fusing the concepts of fairness as uniform distribution with fairness as justice. If access policies concentrate solely on the objective of equality without reference to equity, their achievements will be flawed because those struggling to catch up will fall farther behind. After all, we entered the 21st century concerned about a "digital divide" resulting from a cluster of gaps that leave some Americans on the down side of the Information Age. Nonetheless, if access policies concentrate solely on the objective of equity by targeting groups who need special programs to improve their opportunities for access, they will likely reap the backlash of the many who resent such programs as "unfair."

In the inevitable debates over acceptable access, librarians will need to position their programs within the range of what Americans consider as "fair." The E-Rate should serve as an exemplar for it incorporates the value of fairness as equality as uniform distribution by inviting all libraries to apply for the discount; but it also supports fairness as equity as justice by increasing the discount for poorer libraries. The writers of the library subsidy clause won the support of the broader public by offering a policy that stressed equality and folded within it a commitment to equity. 23 The lesson? Librarians must first communicate the message that their libraries are open to all and available to everyone, even to those with no interest. Granted, such a stance seems overly easy to uphold, since it reflects traditional values among librarians, but it is essential and must be constantly reinforced. To neglect this message invites the charge that libraries are not equally available to all; and, therefore, not deserving of support because they are unfair. Beyond equal access, they must simultaneously pursue strategies seeking to effect equity. Targeted programs, such as literacy training or services in languages other than English, must be fully integrated into the library's larger mission and communicated as such; because, sooner or later, programs that stand apart will attract criticism as an "unfair" use of public funds. And, while these accusations may sound more like trivial grumblings, over time they diminish public confidence. Thus, in so far as policies aim to achieve equality of access, they must also assimilate more narrowly focused policies that aim to achieve equity; for, ultimately, there can be no equality without justice.

Raising an Information Commons from the Decline and Fall

I am charmed by this story of Fisher Ames' outraged denunciation and John Quincy Adams' blushing embarrassment. That the first thought his discovery worth publicizing and that the second responded with such alacrity speaks volumes about the founding generation's belief that their new country should be second to none. More importantly, though, it also embodies the lessons of equality and equity. Ames molded his charge around the critique that all American scholars were deprived of the advantage enjoyed by Gibbon in his English libraries; thus, Ames' condemnation hinges on a lack of equal access. For his part Adams was stung into purchasing the books cited in Gibbons' footnotes by his desire to redeem an insufficiency and bring it up to a level even with his measure of civil society-the essence of equity.

Indeed, those two conditions, equality and equity, also formed the basis for the Republick of Letters, the 18th century information commons that made Ames' denunciation and Adams' backlash possible in the first place. 24 Among contemporary American thinkers, open and free exchange of information enabled political theory, scientific exchange, and of course scholarly embarrassment. Though often characterized as a marketplace of ideas, sharing rather than competition gave this network the flavor of a commons. 25 And, just as with the nascent information commons of the Internet, this earlier version was also mediated, in the form of printed books, published articles, and letters. For an information commons centered on the internet to fulfill the same ideal as the Republick of Letters, it will have to fulfill the same conditions-equality of access and a capacity for achieving equity. Granted, these notions, equality and equity, carry meanings today unimaginable in 1809. Nevertheless, the goal of an information commons remains the same, the open and free exchange of information with all of its consequences.

My example of Ames and Adams may seem a tempest in a teapot, but bear in mind that equal and equitable access to information form the basis for democratic discourse and, consequently, participation (Gibbon's judgment of the last Romans provides plenty of lessons in citizenship.). 26 From the beginning, the inventors of democracy in America intuited the fundamental nature of that relationship and took it beyond theory.

Can we, their heirs, forge a robust democracy for the Information Age? We can if we recognize that democratic discourse ascends from the little things: from wanting the address of a polling station, from sending the mayor an e-mail message, from tracking down a footnote - and from recognizing that access to that discourse is the sine qua non of democratic participation. 27 For democracy to derive its just powers from the consent of the governed, a communicative process must thrive. That process demands much of us for it demands that we insure equal and equitable access for all.


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  1. I wish to acknowledge Nancy Kranich's contribution as a critical reader of this paper, though I also wish to emphasize that responsibility for the ideas in this paper is mine alone. [ back]
  2. (1850) North American Review, 71: 186. [ back]
  3. (1850) North American Review, 71: 186. [ back]
  4. A popular 18th century description of intellectual Europe drawn from Pierre Bayle's journal, Nouvelles de la République des lettres, repeated in the English-language journal, Present State of the Republick of Letters. [ back]
  5. When I read the individual essays and letters in this correspondence, I am sometimes appalled, especially when reading opinions on the status of slaves and on proposed relations with the Indians; but, more often, my imagination soars and I am inspired to examine and question my own society and my own times. [ back]
  6. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, Sept. 1821, to former President James Madison. [ back]
  7. The list of futurists and their scenarios is long. For a sampling of various approaches see: Toffler, A. (1970). Future shock. New York, Random House. Martin, J. (1981). Telematic society: A challenge for tomorrow. New York, Prentice-Hall. Brand, S. (1987). The media lab: Inventing the future at MIT. New York, Viking. Council, N. R. (1994). Realizing the information future: The internet and beyond. Washington DC, National Academy Press. Negroponte. Brown, John Seely. [ back]
  8. "The future ain't what it used to be," is one of the least attributed of Yogi Berra's many perceptive observations. Long time catcher for the New York Yankees of the 1940s and '50s, Berra is also responsible for ,"It ain't over till it's over," and, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." See Berra, Y. (1998). The yogi book: I really didn't say everything I said. New York, Workman Publishing, 118-119. [ back]
  9. In this essay the term "network" refers to a system of computers interconnected for communication purposes. Thus, to transmit voice or data, one must access the "network," or "net." [ back]
  10. See Perl, L. J. (1983). Residential demand for telephone service 1983 No. 1). National Economic Research Associates, Inc. for the Central Services organization, Inc. of the Bell Operating Companies. Hausman, J., Tardiff, T., & Belinfante, A. (1993). The effects of the breakup of AT&T on telephone penetration in the united states. The American Economic Review, 83(2), 178-184. Schement, J. R. (1994). Beyond universal service: Characteristics of americans without telephones, 1980-1993 Communications Policy Working paper No. 1. Benton Foundation. Schement, Jorge Reina [1998] "Thorough americans: Minorities and the new media," Investing in Diversity: Advancing Opportunities for Minorities and the Media. Aspen Institute Publication, Washington DC, 87-124. Schement, Jorge Reina, Belinfante, Alex, and Povich, Laurance [1997]. "Trends in telephone penetration in the united states 1984-1994." In E. M. Noam & A. J. Wolfson (Eds.), Globalism and Localism in telecommunications, (pp. 167-201). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier. Mueller, Milton, and Schement, Jorge Reina [1996] "Universal Service from the Bottom Up: A Study of Telephone Penetration in Camden, New Jersey," The Information Society. Vol. 12, 273-292. Schement, Jorge Reina [1995] "Beyond universal service: Characteristics of americans without telephones, 1980-1993," Telecommunications Policy. Vol. 19, No. 6, 477-485. Williams, F., & Hadden, S. (1991). On the prospects for redefining universal service: From connectivity to content Policy Research Project: The University of Texas at Austin. Williams, F., & Hadden, S. (1992). On the prospects for redefining universal service: From connectivity to content. Information and Behavior, 4, 49-63. [ back]
  11. The metaphor of a city on a hill has long signified a utopian ideal for all to witness. John Winthrop usually receives credit in a sermon delivered in 1630 en route to America aboard the Arabella, "Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; …" First governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony, he seems to have been inspired by Matthew, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." Bible, King James version, MAT 5:14. [ back]
  12. After beginning with the portentious, "When in the Course of human events," the Declaration of Independence goes on to offer the most succinct description of a democracy ever written. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." [ back]
  13. The language of gaps can be potent. In his second inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt took the first step of his new administration by challenging the picture of America as the land of opportunity. He looked out beyond his audience and declared, "I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished."; and, in so doing tapped into the terror that America's promise could not be fulfilled. [ back]
  14. Perhaps the most powerful and provocative phrase of the Declaration of Independence; for, in four words, it defines democracy and the United States yet to be. [ back]
  15. Separate but equal strategies meant that only whites could sit at public lunch counters, that African-Americans were forced to ride at the back of public buses, and travel in their own separate but shabby railroad cars. As a child in San Antonio, I puzzled over side-by-side water fountains labeled "whites" and "colored." I encountered the ultimate insult in San Antonio's first shopping mall, separate restrooms for white men and women, but a single room for "coloreds" of both sexes. [ back]
  16. "... to make available, so far as possible, to all of the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges, for the purpose of the national defense, for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communication, and for the purpose of securing a more effective execution of this policy by centralizing authority with respect to interstate and foreign commerce in wire and radio communication,…" Title I -- General Provisions, Section 1 [47 U.S.C. 151]. The provision relating to the promotion of safety of life and property was added by "An Act to amend the Communications Act of 1934, etc." Public Law 97, 75th Congress, approved and effective 20 May 1937, 50 Stat. 89. For a thorough discussion of the evolution of the concept of universal service, see Mueller, M. L. J. (1997). Universal service: Competition, interconnection, and monopoly in the making of the American telephone system. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press. [ back]
  17. Telecommunications Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56. [ back]
  18. Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Independence, felt strongly about the importance of an egalitarian society. In a 1785 letter he postulates, "Were I to indulge my own theory, I would wish them [Americans] to practice neither commerce nor navigation, but to stand, with respect to Europe, precisely on the footing of China. We should thus avoid wars, and all our citizens would be husbandmen." In an 1814 letter, he renewed his concern, "I fear nothing for our liberty from the assaults of force; but I have seen and felt much, and fear more from English books, English prejudices, English manners, and the apes, the dupes, and designs among our professional crafts. When I look around me for security against these seductions, I find it in the widespread of our agricultural citizens, in their unsophisticated minds, their independence and their power, if called on, to crush the Humists of our cities, and to maintain the principles which severed us from England." Padover, S. K. (Ed.). (1946). Thomas jefferson on democracy. New York: New American Library, pp. 69, 85. [ back]
  19. The interpretation of social disparities resulting from industrialization has drawn some of the most perceptive observers from both sides of the Atlantic. The persistently curious should begin here: Arnold, T. (1937). The folklore of capitalism. New Haven, CT, Yale. Baltzell, E. D. (1964). The protestant establishment: Aristocracy and caste in America. New York, Vintage Books. Bottomore, T. B. (1964). Elites and society. Harmondsworth, UK, Penguin Books. Domhoff, G. W. (1967). Who rules America? Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall. Domhoff, G. W. (1970). The higher circles: The governing class in America. New York, Vintage. Domhoff, G. W. (1978). The powers that be: Processes of ruling-class domination in America. New York, Vintage. Domhoff, G. W. and H. B. Ballard, Eds. (1968). C. Wright Mills and the power elite. Boston, MA, Beacon. Ehrenreich, B. (1990). Fear of falling: The inner life of the middle class. New York, Harper Perennial. Fussell, P. (1983). Class. New York, Ballantine. Giddens, A. (1973). The class structure of advanced societies. New York, Hutchinson, Anchor Press. Gilbert, D. and J. A. Kahl (1982). The American class structure. Homewood, IL, Dorsey Press. Mills, C. W. (1951). White collar. Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press. Mills, C. W. (1956). The power elite. Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press. Newman, K. S. (1989). Falling from grace: The experience of downward mobility in the American middle class. New York, Vintage. Piven, F. F. and R. A. Cloward (1971). Regulating the poor: The functions of public welfare. New York, Vintage. Sennett, R. and J. Cobb (1972). The hidden injuries of class. New York, Vintage Books. Veblen, T. (1899/1918). The theory of the leisure class: an economic study of institutions. New York, The Modern Library. Veblen, T. (1904/1958). The theory of business enterprise. New York, New American Library. [ back]
  20. Perhaps, with such emerging diversity, it should not surprise that the notion of America as a melting pot took hold in the early decades of the 20th century. In 1908, an English Playwright, Israel Zangwill, scored immense success with his play The Melting Pot. The play exults in America's fusion of races, "America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming!" (act 1.). Even so, in light of later Nazi rhetoric, the play also sounds a darker note, "No . . . the real American has not yet arrived. He is only in the Crucible, I tell you-he will be the fusion of all races, perhaps the coming superman." (act 1.). A powerful idea, it became the explanation for the immigrant experience among a generation of social observers. [ back]
  21. Republican challengers sought to discredit the E-Rate by tarring it with negative associations to the Clinton administration. Telephone companies identified it as a line item on consumer bills, hoping to foment public opposition. Because of Vice President Gore's reputation as a proponent of access, opponents dubbed it the "Gore Tax." [ back]
  22. "Link-Up America" is a Federal/state program that reduces initial connection charges, while "Lifeline" reduces monthly charges. At present, Link-up America and Lifeline discounts for low income residents apply only to home phone service; and, not to new telecommunications services such as the Internet, though policy proposals to expand these services are in circulation. See, Blizinski, M. and J. R. Schement (1999). Rethinking universal service: What's on the menu. Making universal service policy: Enhancing the process through multidisciplinary evaluation. B. A. Cherry, S. S. Wildman and A. S. I. Hammond. Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: 69-83. [ back]
  23. S.652, TITLE I, SEC. 254. `(a) `(6) ACCESS TO ADVANCED TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES FOR SCHOOLS, HEALTH CARE, AND LIBRARIES- Elementary and secondary schools and classrooms, health care providers, and libraries should have access to advanced telecommunications services asdescribed in subsection (h). [ back]
  24. A popular 18th century description of intellectual Europe drawn from Pierre Bayle's journal, Nouvelles de la Ripublique des lettres, repeated in the English-language journal, Present State of the Republick of Letters. [ back]
  25. The concept of the marketplace of ideas is most often connected to John Milton and his essay Areopagitica, due to Milton's defense of printers. Milton, J. (1644/1963). Areopagitica. Areopagitica and of education. M. Davis. London, UK, MacMillan. However, the direct root of the phraseology stems from Oliver Wendell Holme's dissent with Louis Brandeis in ABRAMS v. U S , 250 U.S. 616 (1919), where Holmes states, "But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas-that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution." [ back]
  26. I chose this phrase thinking it embedded in the vocabulary of the 18th century. While I suspect it familiar to 18th century gentlemen, the origins of this phrase extend all the way back to classical Latin, "Dorion, ridiculing the description of a tempest in the "Nautilus" of Timotheus, said that he had seen a more formidable storm in a boiling saucepan." Athenaeus (fl. c. 200) The Deipnosophists. viii. 19. [ back]
  27. "Sine qua non." From the Latin, literally, "without which nothing." More colloquially an essential element or condition. Still, I now of no phrase in English that conveys this sentiment with such finality. [ back]

An article from the forum, "The Information Commons, New Technology, and the Future of Libraries." Published June 2002 at, Copyright © Jorge Reina Schement

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