I wrote part of a rant today about social justice, and it started to turn into an essay about equality as a necessary precondition for certain kinds of technological development. I'm not going to post it here, because it's long and unfinished and I want to do some more research, but I remembered a story --
Vespasian, a roman emperor during the first century C.E., was managing the construction of the Colosseum. An engineer suggested labor-saving machinery that would substantially cut down on the amount of labor necessary for the project, but Vespasian refused to use them -- the Colosseum project was designed to hire impoverished Romans to keep them busy.
-- I checked with my Western Civ professor, and he remembers the story (and also gave me the emperor's name) and said it sounds plausible, but I haven't confirmed yet that it's actually a true story, or if there's any record of it happening.
I've heard a lot of people argue about whether the industrial revolution could have happened during the Roman Empire, and if so why it didn't. I wonder if the Labor Movement might be part of it.