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Free Market Capitalism Makes Lives Better

Literary Digest 1928-01-07 Henry Ford Interview / Photographer unknown, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to take a break from President Biden's dismal left-wing, progressive, radical, Green New Deal big-government socialism — if you've pretty much had it up to here and want to take a little vacation — I've got just the thing for you.

Tonight on Fox Business, “American Dynasty” has its debut at 9 p.m. EDT. It’s a docu-series that takes a look at the most iconic family empires in American history. In particular, the series focuses on one of my favorite periods.

Liberal historians disparagingly call it the “Gilded Age” and its leading protagonists — such as Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, and other central protagonists — “Robber Barons.”

That’s what leftist historians call among the most successful entrepreneurs in American history, people whose technological innovations and inventions made America the greatest economic power in the world between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the misbegotten first progressive era in 1910.

“Robber Barons”? Really? I think: pillars of free market capitalism. Know how Mr. Biden’s socialism has utterly failed? The free-market capitalism practiced by these economic greats utterly succeeded.

Think of this: During that period they invented the telegraph, telephone, railroads, cars, oil refineries, cameras, electric lights, and steel. Oh, and did I say — airplanes? Those, too.

With the possible exception of the internet information age, this was the greatest period of technological advance in American history.

After the horrible war between the states, one that was necessary to hold the union together and abolish slavery, men like Ford, Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, and Orville Wright changed the face of America.

In 1914, Ford assembly line workers were not happy with their $2.34 daily wage for a nine-hour workday. So, Henry Ford decided to double their wage to $5 a day. Literally thousands and thousands of workers lined up to apply for the new wage.

All of a sudden, productivity soared. Assembly lines were humming. The pay was now so good that people were willing to do all the work. Five dollars might not sound like a lot today, but it was a lot of money back then.

Then came the second genius move by Ford: He had them building affordable Model T cars that his own workforce could afford to buy with their new, higher wages. It worked: They bought, and they drove, and they transformed America.

The Scottish-American industrialist Carnegie expanded the steel industry.  Rockefeller discovered oil, first used it as kerosene, and then learned how to refine it into gasoline to fuel Ford’s cars.

Then, oil was used throughout the country as a light source. But hang on a minute. Thomas Alva Edison, working with Samuel Morse and others, invented the telegraph, and then the telephone, to enhance communications at speeds and international distances never dreamed possible.

Then, as Edison fiddled around with electricity, he figured out electric-driven lights, as in — lightbulbs. As in, the original mission that formed once-great company General Electric.

While all this fantastic stuff was happening, Orville Wright was tinkering in his bicycle shop and, after a few false starts, he and his brother finally invented an airplane that got off the ground at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

So while Carnegie was making the steel for Ford’s cars, Ford was raising wages so his workforce could buy the cars. Rockefeller was refining gasoline to fuel the cars. Edison was making the electric lightbulb to illuminate the homes, factories, and office buildings at the end of the automobiles’ destinations. And the Wright brothers were launching aviation.

Oh, and by the way, did I forget the incredible proliferation of railroads criss-crossing the country to pull the United States together and commercially connect cities and towns everywhere?

And then they could talk to each other on their telephones? So parents could start keeping track of their children, and the children could talk to their grandparents? Don’t want to forget that either. All this, in about a 40-year span — really?

Did you ever think of anything so unbelievable as this story, rooted in free-market capitalism, where men and women were free to use their God-given talents, where success was rewarded, and labor became easier, and families could be together — all this to make lives better.

To make America better, and prosperous, and a world power the likes of which had never been seen before. This is what freedom brings. This is why Mr. Biden’s socialist, anti-freedom policies have to be stopped.

Now, did these entrepreneurs get rich? Yes, they did. Contrary to what the lefty historians say, though, rich is not bad. Rich is not evil. Rich came from the fruits of their minds, and their labors….

Were people helped? Well, consider this. John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University. And with his wife, Laura Spelman Rockefeller, he founded the historic black Spelman College.

Andrew Carnegie built Carnegie Hall in New York, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and, along with his banker, Andrew Mellon, created Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

In Cleveland, Rockefeller's friend and fellow industrialist Amasa Stone started what is today Case Western Reserve University. Railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt founded Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Ezra Cornell, who worked for Samuel Morse and Thomas Edison, started Cornell University.

These and many other Gilded Age heroes founded innumerable other colleges, libraries, hospitals, foundations, and whatnot. This is how wealth ameliorates poverty. This is how freedom spawns genius. This is how a great democracy like America became the world's greatest economic engine.

This is why Mr. Biden and his left-wing crowd of success-punishers, redistributors, and income-levelers are so terribly, terribly wrong. This is why the cavalry must come.

Larry Kudlow was the Director of the National Economic Council under President Trump from 2018-2021. His Fox Business show "Kudlow" airs at 4 p.m &. and his radio show airs on 770 ABC from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

From Larry Kudlow’s broadcast on Fox Business News.