Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Growth Resumes

After the Great Depression and WWII, the United States could look back on thirty-six difficult years (1929 - 1945). Resuming a peacetime economy, people were eager for prosperity. Cengage's history book tells us that

Newer U.S. industries, such as chemicals and electronics, quickly came to dominate the world marketplace. The Corning Glass Company reported that most of its sales during the mid-1950's came from products that had not even been on the market in 1940. General Electric proudly proclaimed that "progress is our most important product."

These advancements in technology led to changes in economics. The notions of "working class" and "middle class" and "upper class" were no longer quite accurate. Factory workers often enjoyed a middle class lifestyle, and people at all levels saw themselves as enjoying economic mobility - the opportunity to change their income levels. Given the high level of economic freedom, people often did not fit, or want to fit, into a simple 'class' structure of low, middle, and upper. Some ideologies, however, have been slow to grasp the waning of the class structure. Temple University's Mark Levin writes:

The Marxist class-struggle formulation, which pits the proletariat ("working class") against the bourgeoisie ("wealthy merchant class"), still serves as the principal theoretical and rhetorical justification for the Statist's assault on the free market. But it is an anathema to the free market in that the individual has unto himself the power to make of himself what he chooses. There is no static class structure layered atop the free market. The free market is a mutable, dynamic, and vibrant system of individual interactions that engages all aspects of the human character.

To maintain the freedom of individuals to shape their own economic roles, and with them, their cultural and social roles, depends upon a free market: allowing people to make decisions about buying and selling:

the free market is a vital bulwark against statism. And it would appear the Statist agrees, for he is relentless in his assault on it. Indeed, the Statist’s rejection of the Constitution’s limits on federal power is justified primarily, albeit not exclusively, on material grounds.

Although inefficient and indirect, allowing millions of people to make their own economic choices adds up to a whirlwind of business activity which ultimately brings prosperity to both the individual and the nation.