Only after ways were developed to cut their costs drastically were such things brought within the reach of ordinary Americans.
Henry Ford’s mass production methods cut in half the cost of producing the famous Model T Ford in just five years. People who had once lived their entire lives within a narrow radius of a relatively few miles could now go see places they never knew about before. The automobile expanded their horizons.
People today who complain about the automobile’s pollution have no idea how much more pollution there was before the automobile came along. In New York City, for example, the 40,000 horses that were the backbone of the city’s transportation, before the automobile, produced 400 tons of manure per working day, along with 20,000 gallons of urine.
At one time, people like Rockefeller, Edison, Ford and the Wright brothers were regarded as heroes, for having opened vast new possibilities for other human beings. The fact that they got rich doing it was an incidental part of the story.
We still have people revolutionizing our lives. Just think of the computer and the pharmaceutical drugs that have not only lengthened our lives but made them more healthful, so that being 80 years old today is like being 60 years old in times past.
But today we seldom even know the names of those who have made these monumental contributions to human well-being. All we know is that some people have gotten “rich” and that this is to be regarded as some sort of grievance.
Many of the people we honor today are people who are skilled in the rhetoric of grievances and promises of new “rights” at someone else’s expense. But is that what is going to make a better America?
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