Nuclear Power, Rapid Technological Advancement, and Democratic Values


I want to raise some large, generic questions about the compatibility of democratic society with the kinds of problems which this Symposium has addressed. In many respects the problems associated with nuclear power, while unique and dramatic in some ways, really illustrate a much more general phenomenon. Few have recognized this phenomenon, however, and neither political nor legal mechanisms have evolved to respond to it.

This phenomenon involves the nature of modern science and technology, the nature of the modern technocratic state, and the blurring of the lines between the modern state and multinational corporations with respect to that emerging technology. Its effect has been to threaten the constitutional values of individual liberty, freedom, and democracy. Our legal and political institutions, after all, developed in response to 18th century conditions. If modern forces beyond those contemplated two hundred years ago are straining those institutions, then we should all be concerned about the security of the values that these institutions were meant to protect. The problem, therefore, is precisely political, but it requires a larger understanding of what is going on and how the nuclear power controversy is symptomatic of a more general problem.

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