Before the industrial age wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few. The masses lived hand to mouth and day to day. All but a few were farmers and a bad storm could wipe out a years work. Land belonged to the nobility and the church. The only way to accumulate wealth was to deprive someone else through coercion, theft, or looting in war. We get a picture of this in Joshua 22:8
(Jos 22:8 KJV) And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.This was to soldiers coming back from attacking and looting a city.
Riches was not defined by what they have created but by what they have taken from others. The only way to get wealth seems to have been looting and pillaging.
Then came the industrial revolution. Now, with machines and sources of power, one person could make large numbers of items. Production soared along with productivity. Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations gives and example in making pins. He said that it would be considered a major accomplishment for a lone worker without all the machines to make one pin in a day. With machines and the division of labor a crew of 10 could make 48,000 in a day. Imagine how that reduced the cost of such a simple thing as a pin and improved the life of everyone. (page 2)
Wealth today is not just a case of moving gold coins around from bank to bank. New wealth and value can be generated by reducing the cost of making the same item and because of the reduced cost, selling many more to the public. Of course this assumes that the public has jobs that pay enough to buy the items. There is no end to the level of prosperity the world can know.
Another reason that prosperity is more wide spread is the innovation of the entrepreneur. Automobiles were at one point only for the rich. Competition drove Henry Ford to come up with the assembly line and the car became available to almost everyone. We have seen the same thing in computers and telephones. Wood was replaced by coal. Coal was replaced by oil products. Electricity became a common resource. Nuclear energy is now available. Perhaps we will see engines run by hydrogen and solar power may become economically feasible. Every step generates more wealth and the cycle will keep going on.
So don’t get too upset by the economists who are living in the days of barbarian looting. Most of the well-known ones are socialists at heart and live off the productivity of others. If they had their way we would be back to feudalism, with them as the nobility, of course. In reality, there is enough to go around and more coming. All we need to do is free enterprise and the ability to pursue our dreams.
Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations. Norwalk, Connecticut: The Easton Press, nd.
homo unius libri