Enriching the Common Man

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This is a picture of a common programmable coffee maker.  For about $60, you can have one of these nearly ubiquitous items.  However, 100 years ago, these items were not available.  Those rich enough to afford servants were able to have coffee ready for them when they woke up, but many Americans went without this small luxury.  However, since this invention came about, ordinary Americans have been able to have what had only previously been available to the very rich: hot coffee ready for them when they awoke in the morning.  With other programmable devices like slow-cookers, common Americans can have a whole breakfast waiting for them!  The luxuries of the 20th Century uber-rich were commonplace not 100 years later.

This marginal improvement in living standards reminds of of a very important fact: most innovations do not benefit the wealthy, but rather the poor.  Indoor plumbing did not benefit the wealthy; it just replaced running servants with running water.  It was the great masses of people who benefited from indoor plumbing; those who did not have the running servants.

It’s easy to dismiss capitalism and innovation as only benefiting the rich, since they are seen to be the ones who gain the most monetarily from it.  But to do so requires dismissal of the unseen mass of benefits accrued to the poorest, to the common man.  These benefits are unseen not because they are hidden, but rather because they are so obvious numerous as to not warrant noticing (similar to how one blinks or breathes without conscience effort for either).

6 thoughts on “Enriching the Common Man

  1. “Indoor plumbing did not benefit the wealthy; it just replaced running servants with running water.”

    Of course, the “progressive” argument is that it made the country poorer because of all those servants losing their jobs. History and basic economics prove that this emotion-fueled feeling is wrong.

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    • Progressives would also argue that it is unfair that Carl Sontheimer became very wealthy from inventing the Cuisinart and ought to be punished for doing so. Progressive would further argue that the propensity of people like Carl to invent is unaffected by how much you punish them.

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      • Yep. Carl just needs enough money to raise a family. The rest of the value should go to the employees even though they did not take the risk Carl did. Cuisinart did not have to be a consumer success.

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  2. “It’s easy to dismiss capitalism and innovation as only benefiting the rich, since they are seen to be the ones who gain the most monetarily from it. But to do so requires dismissal of the unseen mass of benefits accrued to the poorest, to the common man. These benefits are unseen not because they are hidden, but rather because they are so obvious numerous as to not warrant noticing (similar to how one blinks or breathes without conscience effort for either).”

    The best thing about understanding economics is that you know what creates prosperity and can marvel at how well it works. The worst thing about understanding economics is that you get to see the implementation of political policies that thwart the attempts of individuals to improve their economic conditions.

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  3. Jon

    Absolutely! And for the most part, it is us not-so-wealthy who have made some people wealthy by voting with our dollars for the improvements in living standards those folks have provided to us.

    Thank you, rich people.

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