Richard Ebeling emails:
I participated in the November 17, 2015 “Libertarian Angle,” webinar sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation, with the Foundation’s president, Jacob G. Hornberger, on the topic: “Myths of the Industrial Revolution.”
One of the most frequent criticisms of the free market, capitalist system is the supposed harshness and inequities of the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
The webinar discussion focused on challenging and refuting many of the standard arguments raised by opponents or critics of the free market system. First, before the Industrial Revolution life, for everyone in all parts of the world, was “nasty, brutish, and short,” in terms of life span and the standard and quality of life.
This was transformed by emergent industrial capitalism that offered an escape from the poverty, hardships, and class-based oppressions of feudal society. Over the 200 years following the beginning of the Industrial Revolution life spans nearly doubled, work became less burdensome, safer, and more productive.
Rising incomes meant higher standards of life for growing numbers of people, and two things that had never existed before: First, the liberation of women who could now find work in manufacturing and be independent of fathers and/or husbands with financial autonomy; and, second, the emergence of something never known before in human history: Childhood, as parents were now earning enough to not have to send their children immediately to work, but could have a period of education and play before entering the adult world of work.
This was all manifested by the rise of the “Middle Class” and the accompanying “bourgeois virtues” of individuality; self-responsibility; and a spirit of work, saving, and investment that had its hallmark in the successes and respectability of the market-oriented entrepreneur.
BUT all this was only made possible by the new eighteenth and nineteenth centuries political philosophy of individual rights, personal and economic liberty, respected private property rights, and government restrained to protect human freedom rather than deny or oppress it.
The webinar runs for about 30 minutes.