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The Onion on Industrialization

December 19, 2009

The latest Onion has a hilarious article on how the Industrial Revolution “improved” the lives of countless nineteenth-century children. You really just have to read it, but here is an excerpt:

According to records, the introduction of machine-based manufacturing provided a desperately needed solution to England’s toddler-unemployment epidemic. Out-of-work children, many of whom had struggled since birth to earn any kind of wage at all, were now afforded the chance to work seven days a week, up to 19 hours a day, in such competitive industries as iron-smelting and steel-tempering.

Of course, no one in the nineteenth century would have had the audacity to argue that manufacturing jobs actually benefited children. Yet, today, pro-globalization folks continually defend sweatshops on the grounds that any employment is better than no employment. Even Paul Krugman, whom I otherwise adore, has made this argument. Undoubtedly, industrialization has greatly enhanced our quality of life in the Western world. But so have moral standards.

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