Industrial Revolution and Violence

Industrial revolution  gave mankind the ability to mass produce. But was the ability of mass production the cause of the resultant violence? Just because two things are correlated doesn’t mean they are causal. To be fair lets not forget that industrial revolution at times is not even considered a real revolution. The debate is still raging and for the time being I’ll sidestep that issue and accept is as a revolution.

The increase in production of goods and productivity started improving the standard of living of the masses albeit slowly at first. When those who were barely surviving started getting enough to survive and got a breather to think about their sorry lot, they realize the disparity between those who had and those who had not. This lead to those who were oppressed to want to change the way things were. They didn’t want what the rich had, what they did wanted was the freedom of choice, the ability to take advantage of the opportunities around them without coercion.

This nudged them into amending the laws of the land to better suite the economically expanding environment. The changes in the laws took time and effort and followed the needs and growing understanding of the budding entrepreneurial spirit. It is one of the reasons the Industrial Revolution is spread out in time unlike other quicker and decisive revolutions. It’s also because of this incremental change that the tile of revolution is tougher to assign to this slow and deliberate movement towards freedom of private enterprise.

Now those in power and the established groups were not so keen on giving up what they had, namely, the exclusive rights to all kinds of trades and products. These established groups also had a monopoly on violence, meaning they were usually in charge of the security forces. When the oppressed group wanted to have more freedom, the oppressors used what they had a comparative advantage in, namely violence, to curb this enthusiasm.

Industrial Revolution thus simply increased the overall prosperity of the people, including that of the poor, and wasn’t as such the cause of violence. It was the desire of the of the lower class to have more freedom from oppression that gave them the dream of having more. As such, they took measures to unshackle themselves from the chains of complete control and subjugation, and that struggle ended up in violence.

Recently a question was raised by an intelligent person:

Had there been no railroads … or  industrial process of production .. the holocaust wouldn’t have been carried out like it was. Just look at the manner in which captives were transported .. held and then executed.

It appears from the above statement that the reason for the violence was that there were too many mass produced tools available. In other words had there been no mass produced tools to kill, holocaust might not have been carried out this way. I say perhaps the statement is technically correct, but the holocaust still could have been carried out some other way, by using some other tool. Lack of tools didn’t prevent Cain from killing Abel.

pyramid-of-skulls

Mongol Invasions and the skull pyramids

Are we so easily forgetting the Mongol Invasions that left towers of skulls behind its trail? Did the absence of mass produced products prevent them from exterminating a significant portion of the entire world population?

Just because fire was discovered and was used to burn someone alive doesn’t mean it’s the fault of the fire that it was employed in the burning. Mass produced goods are just that, mere goods. They can be used for both good or evil. Blaming the industrial revolution for the violence simply muddies the issue that in reality boils down to human choice. One thing happening in correlation to another doesn’t mean one is the causing the other.

World Population Since Industrial Revolution

After the industrial revolution the human population has increased about ten times in a short span. In thousands of years of history the abundance of resources to multiply this quickly and successfully had never been available to mankind. The mass means of production has given us humans this remarkable ability to move beyond mere survival and into other endeavors. This freedom to sit and think has in return spurred more innovation and improvement.

Even if we assume for the sake of argument that the revolution caused all the deaths in its wake, has it not also done more than enough to atone for it as well? Do we really believe we are so lucky as to be that 1 out of 10 who would have been alive in the absence of the industrial revolution? All these revolutions take place because people don’t want to remain slaves to someone else’s dictates. Our salvation lies in freedom, and freedom can’t be had without protection of person and property.

 

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