The Industrial Revolution: Who Planned It?

Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in World of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin e Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may be, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I am proud of the words “Ich bin e Berliner” ! ”

-John F. Kennedy

The Industrial Revolution was the beginning of our changing times, the times that made possible the prosperity we have today. Usually, we give credit and gratitude to the machines and personalities who make them, but it can be all wrong. I would say that the Industrial Revolution was the tipping of a trend that began long ago with the Athens of Pericles and something we take for granted today: citizenship.

Can industrialization be planned?

If we look at countries like USSR, Maoist China or Nehruvian India, the prosperity that comes from industrialization will fail. Looking westward, making full use of Marxist-Leninist or Fabian ideas, central planners set their sights on rapid industrialization, a goal they achieved. But where did the prosperity? They had factories, experts and all the machines. What was wrong? Why did primitively planned countries have many running factories that could not produce anything of value or reduce their losses?

The Kush countries industrialized rapidly, but the revolution they had hoped for never happened. This unexpected failure can be explained by the context in which they industrialized – citizenship or lack thereof. Citizenship is the status of human beings as distinct from subjects, slaves, cattle or any form of servitude. It is the recognition of man as an end in himself. As an institution, it is supported by others such as the rule of law, self-government and property rights.

Industrialization or individual rights?

From this, we can see that, while people in some parts of post-Enlightenment Europe were citizens, people in the rest of the world were not. This, I believe, is the basis of their success.

Citizens of Europe had more legal and economic latitude to draw, write, build, farm, create, invent, with the privilege of enjoying rights predicated on duties protected by law, rather than the ephemeral goodwill and patronage of aristocrats and despots. or sue.

Unlike the rest of the world, European citizens do not have to worry about arbitrary arrests, murders, or deprivation of personal property or inheritance. They had no authority to tell them where and how to live, so they had personal control over their lives and property, and often, their communities prospered as a result.

They will go on to create grassroots initiatives by harnessing their talent and taking financial risks. A blacksmith’s son in England would discover the effect of induced currents. A few years later, a Serb financed by an American investor would develop the AC motor, one of the foundations of our electrical world. Likewise, industries will pop up around the ideas of individuals and be supported by their sweat and blood, while the rest of the world looks on in awe and envy.

The secret ingredient

Many revolutionaries will come and go, trying to achieve the same prosperity and success through their innovative plans and grand visions for society. It would all be in vain, as they assumed industrialization to be the only cause of prosperity. In doing so, they confused the effect to be the same as the cause. No one planned the progress that the western world went through. However, that’s not to say there wasn’t a plan. In fact, millions of people like you and me have planned their lives and made their own choices. These plans may only involve bread and shoes, but these small plans will change the world for the better.

All this has happened because unlike before, the will of millions of citizens has converged towards the common goal of prosperity. It was not the result of theoretical ideas based on universal brotherhood but the collective result of the voluntary cooperation of individual citizens.

The history of liberalism is not the history of kings, conquerors or statesmen. This is the ‘scientifically insignificant’ history of all of us. Its great consequences are not from the passions of great men or the writs of great institutions, but from the actions of men.


Ashay is a Writing Fellow with Liberty Fellowship Students for Freedom in India. He is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science Engineering and is interested in studying emergent phenomena.

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