Saturday, May 21, 2016

The poor Inventor runs the Gantloop of all petulent wits

From A Treatise of and Contributions by Sir William Petty, 1662.

Even before the industrial revolution, the dead hand of vested interests was suppressing progress as Sir William describes below. In fact, given that the history of man until the past five hundred years was essentially of non-progress, perhaps Sir William casts a different light. The argument might be made that until five hundred years ago, the dead hand of fear and obstruction had virtually always had the upper hand, delaying the adoption of new changes long enough that they died a natural death. Progress, in this rendering, is simply a matter of relaxing the vice grip of vested interests in order to trial new ideas.
Where note by the way, that few new Inventions were ever rewarded by a Monopoly; for although the Inventor oftentimes drunk with the opinion of his own merit, thinks all the world will invade and incroach upon him, yet I have observed, that the generality of men will scarce be hired to make use of new practices, which themselves have not throughly tried, and which length of time hath not vindicated from latent inconveniences; so as when a new Invention is first propounded, in the beginning every man objects, and the poor Inventor runs the Gantloop of all petulent wits; every man finding his several flaw, no man approving it, unless mended according to his own advice: Now not one of an hundred out-lives this torture, and those that do, are at length so changed by the various contrivances of others, that not any one man can pretend to the Invention of the whole, nor well agree about their respective shares in the parts. And moreover, this commonly is so long a doing, that the poor Inventor is either dead, or disabled by the debts contracted to pursue his design; and withall railed upon as a Projector, or worse, by those who joyned their money in partnership with his wit; so as the said Inventor and his pretences are wholly lost and vanisht.

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