Q: Was the middle class created by federal law or large, profit-hungry corporations?

A: It wasn’t the generosity of Congress.

Instead, Large, Profit-hungry Corporations Helped Create the Middle Class, as explained by Voices for Reason.

Big companies looking to make a buck created large supermarkets containing refrigerated produce and a large selection of dry goods. The article quotes The Great A&P, which points out before the age of large supermarkets:

Food was hugely expensive, relative to wages. The average working-class family in the 1920s devoted one-third of its budget to groceries, the average farm family even more. Most households spent more to put dinner on the table than for their rent or their mortgage. … With neither display space nor refrigeration, many neighborhood stores carried only token stocks of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh fish and poultry were rarities.

Only a big corporation has the staffing, capital, and geographic reach to build out huge numbers of large stores with refrigerated storage and lots of shelf space. Big corporations have the capital to buy big fleets of refrigerated trucks to carry perishable goods and build expensive warehouses to store big shipments, break them down, and deliver small loads to each of many stores.

Supermarkets reduced the cost of food and increased the quality. Millions of people benefited.  

Look at the expansion and use of electrification:

Where none had existed 10 years earlier, by 1928 1.25 million refrigerators and 7.5 million radios were in American households. At the same time the number of electrically wired homes increased from 7 million to 19 million. That produced a rise in power consumed from 25 million to nearly 100 million kilowatt-hours a year.

The article points out that

  • Ford put America on wheels,
  • GM provided “a car for every purse and purpose,” and
  • GE gave us kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, and washers for dishes and clothes.

And all that happened before the New Deal solved every problem of human life and perfected the U.S. economy (okay, I exaggerate by a very small amount the claimed benefits of the New Deal – I will only conceed that is a little bit of exaggeration).

The article points out it was IBM, Intel, and Microsoft that put a computer on everyone’s desk.

I will point out that the U.S. Congress didn’t design, manufacture, code, and distribute those PCs. NASA played a big role in breaking the ground, but Apple and IBM brought us the microcomputer. IBM and Microsoft brought us two competing versions of DOS.

All those companies were big and every one of them was trying to make a buck.

By developing those products, they brought down costs and made good stuff available for everyone, all of which expanded the economy and lifted up everyone.

I think that all of that is highly moral.

The article concludes:

Rather than absorb the conventional narrative that thanks the government, we should consider that the rise in the American standard of living was surely due, not to interventions, but to the elements of freedom in the economy.

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