Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Hockey Stick and the Industrial Revolution

Can we talk about the Hockey Stick? No, not the one that showed that Global Warming is going to cause the planet to become uninhabitable. The Hockey Stick I want to talk about can actually be proven by the numbers to, in fact, be true.

Before the Industrial Revolution the life expectancy of the average person was about 30 years and one in four children would die before the age of five. Today, in the U.S. we can expect to live to be around 80 and the death of a child in the developed nations is about 1 in 200.

Now if you put that information on a graph you will get, you guessed it, a hockey stick with the upturn of the blade starting about 1800. Before the industrial Revolution the life of the average person was not improving. Living standards had stagnated for centuries. 90% of the population worked on the farm producing food and that production was not enough, except in the occasional good year, to feed the entire population. There was mass starvation and disease. Mass poverty was the norm. Few owned more than the "rags" on their back and most were lucky to see a meal that included meat of any kind more than a few times a year.

The Industrial Revolution changed that. Families that were scratching a living out of the ground and living only a bit above the starvation level found that they could move to the city and make enough money in the factories to feed their family and rent a hovel in town which was better than the hovel where they had lived on the farm. The family also found that their children, for the most part, did not have to work full time and so could gain some education thereby improving their lot in life. Was it better than what they had before? Yes, and with each generation their life became better and they lived longer and had more 'stuff'.

So if you graph the living standard for human history you will see that you have an almost flat line until the 1800's but since then the graph has a very dramatic upward slope. A true "Hockey Stick."

Now when you hear folks complaining about how greedy and bad business folks are just consider how far the human race has come in the last 200 years.....


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