you to a contest.
on a high school home school curriculum. I want to produce a list
of blessings that the West has enjoyed. Then I plan to show them
how most of these blessings have come from free market capitalism.
I have prepared
a list of blessings that are enjoyed by residents of capitalist
societies, but especially countries in which English is most people’s
first language. Read my list. See what I’ve left out. Then compile
a list of your own.
revolution began in Great Britain sometime after 1750 but before
1800. Historians disagree about how this happened, just as they
disagree about how everything else has happened. But the fact
that it did happen, and happened first in Great Britain, is undisputed.
grow up accepting their blessings as part of their environment.
They give little thought to this. They assume their environment’s
existence, even when it is something analogous to a miracle. I
want to go from what is common to what has not been common that
made it possible: liberty.
the light switch and all that it represents. Think of all that
came together to make it possible. Electricity has done more to
equalize the races and the sexes than all the equal opportunity
legislation ever has.
Half a century
ago, before rock & roll took over the airwaves, there was
a hit song, "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep."
It was a sappy sing. Yet I can still remember the opening lines:
worried and I can’t sleep
count my blessings instead of sheep.
I fall asleep, counting my blessings.
It was written
by the most successful of all popular music writers, Irving Berlin,
who surely had a lot of blessings to count, including living to
is the drug of choice for tens of millions of Americans. Psychological
depression has become a pandemic. Yet we live in a world that
is so much more physically comfortable and so much more productive
than the one in which I grew up, let alone when my parents grew
are pampered by our economic environment. We pay for this with
is seriously wrong. But it’s not the economy.
in a while, we need a reality check: an inventory of blessings
that even the federal government has been unable to take away,
despite its efforts to make things better for us by removing our
liberties, one by one. (On this freedom-hijacking process, read
any book by James Bovard.)
go through a list of blessings. We tend to assume that they are
normal. They are abnormal beyond all human forecasts, 1750 or
is low. Children usually bury their parents. Two centuries ago,
the mortality rate was 50%, except in North America: half would
die before adulthood.
We are approaching
age 80 as the life expectancy at birth.
longer than men, but life expectancy for both sexes is rising.
for operations is improving constantly.
We can still
select our own physicians in the United States.
health care is plentiful.
Soap is cheap.
is cheap. Food doesn’t spoil.
Food is cheap,
especially the basics that keep us alive.
happen, except in war-torn sub-Sahara Africa.
growth means that we can accomplish more with whatever amount
of money or assets that we possess.
growth compounds in the West at about 2.5% per annum. At 2.5%,
wealth doubles every 29 years. Over a 250-year period, this means
over a 250-fold increase. Then, 29 years later, a 500-fold increase.
Then, 29 years later, a 1000-fold increase. Wealth gets big, fast,
as time passes.
We live better
than our parents did. They lived better than their parents did.
As more societies
adopt capitalism, the division of labor increases, increasing
world is now adopting capitalism.
remain productive longer than ever before.
our work either easier or more productive.
are cheap, and getting cheaper. On
the Web, they are free.
talk to each other cheap, lowering all costs.
are almost universal. This took 15 years.
lets anyone become a publisher.
The Web is
a 4 billion-page free encyclopedia.
us find what we are looking for (usually).
can’t hide anything for very long.
resistance is cheaper than ever.
is spreading: home schools, day schools.
lets anyone become a curriculum publisher.
are easily accessed by anyone on-line.
any university library, free, and access all the books in the
library, plus the college-students-only Internet library of journals,
which is huge. In 1850, a large college library was 20,000 books.
A typical university library today is 500,000 volumes. Harvard
has 13 million.
The Web makes
distance education easy, which
makes earning a college degree much cheaper.
Institute of Technology (MIT) has
put its courses on-line, free of charge. This is the wave
of the future.
cheap and available everywhere, including Amazon.
are highly specialized, for every profession.
becoming the world’s second language. English is the premier language
of business, finance, and scholarship. This is great for consumers
who speak English.
keep falling as competition increases.
universal. Poor people can afford used cars.
system is huge.
its competitors have wiped out the moving van oligopoly.
afford to move to places with greater opportunity.
of delivering goods is falling. This lowers prices: the Wal-Mart
feet per home each generation.
bedrooms are universal.
are common: wider home ownership.
fuel makes wood-chopping obsolete.
has made Phoenix larger than Philadelphia.
of housing has made suburbs possible: housing comfort available
only to the rich in 1850. Most people have a lawn and flowers:
the unfulfilled dream of slum dwellers, which were most people,
has delivered most of us from physically hard labor.
is cheap and abundant.
diseases have disappeared.
growth is now possible.
is the most versatile factor of production. The problem has been
to finance specialization.
today is extensive and increasing through capital investment.
Each person can match his skills with consumer demand. Each person
can thereby increase his output.
limited mainly to the professions. Just about anyone can get the
training he needs to enter any occupation that he has the skills
jobs are plentiful.
is low, especially for married men. If you want to work, there
is a job.
are stepping stones, not brick walls.
demand for work done well, on time, at the price agreed on.
can be offset by the willingness to work cheaper, faster, and
constantly providing new tools.
increase workers’ production.
makes siesta societies more productive.
lights make the work day longer for businesses but shorter for
workers: Henry Ford’s 8-hour shifts, 3 shifts/day.
when opportunities increase.
live by eight words:
and let live.
make a deal.
It is still
possible for anyone to start a small business in one
day in the United States.
It is still
possible to get rich by running your own business.
of new businesses started each year is rising.
Most of them
will fail, but most of their owners will start another one.
is falling because opportunities to serve consumers is increasing.
Everyone is looking for a better deal, which was once called the
Jewish brother-in-law deal, itself testifying to opportunities
for minority groups.
eliminates erasers, and a lot of fear of making a mistake.
us keep track of where our money goes.
lets us run a medium-size business, or even larger. It costs $200.
make possible work that only Harvard Business School
types could do in 1975. (VisiCalc was invented for the Apple
I computer by a Harvard Business School student, who needed a
way to speed up classroom calculations.)
programs let small businesses compete. Order Desk Pro let my secretary
run a $500,000 a year non-profit publishing organization in 1995
that had cost $250 a month to hire a specialist to run in 1985.
Order Desk Pro cost under $300
at the time.
games amuse millions of people.
cheap. So are CD’s. So are downloaded music files.
We can listen
to music that only the rich could afford to hear a century ago.
We can listen at any time, day or night.
satellite channels have broken the network oligopoly. The networks
are losing market share.
We can watch
old movies any time.
A video player
that cost $1,000 in 1980 — $2,000 in today’s money — costs under
videotape that cost $20 in 1980 — $40 in today’s money — costs
We can shoot
cheap videos of our children. We and they will not forget. (But
there will be more videos of the first child.)
MAN A KING
a powerful king have in 1700 that you don’t have? (I don’t mean
you buy that a king would have paid half his kingdom to buy? (See
the first entry, above.)
products for the rich find new markets.
then widens the market for successful products.
creates mass markets for a product line.
improvement creates specialized niche markets.
of the very rich, except for three things, is essentially the
same as the lifestyle of the middle class. The exceptions are:
(1) full-time employees to run errands and wait on them; (2) enough
land to keep their homes invisible to the public; (3) no personal
I am sure
I have left out a lot of important items, and probably categories.
Think about this. Get a list together. Send it as an email (not
as an attachment) to email@example.com.
my goal: to teach high school students the blessings of liberty.
I will use the final list to catch their attention. Then I will
tell the story of how we got where we are.
If I get
a lot of submissions, I’ll send out an undated list you everyone
who sends me a list.