Friday, January 05, 2007

Capitalism and the Historians


This book edited by FA Hayek - winner of the 1974 Nobel Prize in economics - sets the Industrial Revolution is its proper light. Despite what is typically taught, the Industrial Revolution benefited all of society, most notably the poor.

It's important to note that before the Industrial Revolution, the rich bought tailored clothes and handmade shoes, while after the Industrial Revolution, the rich still bought tailored clothes and handmade shoes. It was the poor, and the then-small middle class, that were able to purchase the necessities of life due to the new factories.

The movement from rural areas to the neo-urban areas was not due to the coercive actions of factory owners. No, the movement was because the alternative, staying on the farms, meant continual struggles and possible starvation. The factories were the best alternative for a suddenly burgeoning population.

Yet the belief that the capitalists exploited the workers still exists, just as it has for over a century. Professor T.S. Ashton notes a student's lament, in response to an exam question, that "in the early centuries agriculture was widespread in England. Today it is confined to the rural areas."

You have to love that quote as it captures the fallacy that life before the Industrial Revolution was one of idyllic comfort. Silly, but a common view of rural life in the Middle Ages.

Ashton also notes the government interventions that lead to poor-quality housing and sanitation. As is always the case, government can not improve anything, yet it easily worsens any situation.

Read this book to understand the history of Industrial Revolution unblemished by socialist or Marxist views. It is available at the Store at Mises.org. Enjoy!

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