Reply To: Living Standards and the Industrial Revolution


Sons, you write: “I’ve heard a couple of times the argument of proponents of the industrial revolution that people voluntarily decided to move from the fields into the factories. Apparently they favored factory work to that on the fields. Thus this proves that the workers benefited from the industrial revolution.

“But I’ve also heard the argument that because of the extreme population growth (caused by the agricultural revolution) there wasn’t enough work to be done in the agricultural sector.”

These are two ways of saying the same thing. If incomes were falling in the agricultural sector, that’s the reason people did voluntarily move into industry. In terms of their material well-being it was the best option available to them. Since there was no magical way to make agriculture more profitable, and since industry is, as Mises said, what literally saved them from starvation, we should be thrilled that this option existed for them.