One of the greatest technological breakthroughs of the past 100 years was the perfection and mass production of the automobile. Although the initial design of a steam-powered “motorized carriage” dates back to the 18th century, it was the invention of the internal combustion engine that allowed the automobile industry to dramatically change our way of life.
The internal combustion engine was the first engine that was powered by liquid fuel. The engine was designed to generate power by igniting a mixture of fuel and air to produce multiple explosions in chambers that drove pistons to turn a shaft that would make the wheels of a vehicle move.
It is generally acknowledged that the practical use of internal combustion engines in automobiles didn’t start to take place until the late 1800s when several German inventors, working independently of each other, developed automobiles that could travel for long distances.
Prior to the Great Depression which began in 1929, there were more than 1800 American entrepreneurs who were attempting to mass-produce gas-powered automobiles for consumers. By the time the Great Depression was over, only eight American automobile companies remained: General Motors, Ford, Crosley, Packard, Nash-Kelvinator, Studebaker, Chrysler, and Hudson.
The mass production of vehicles created millions of new jobs for American workers, including jobs for designers, assemblers, road construction workers, mechanics, and truck drivers. It also wiped out the horse-and-carriage industry and large segments of the train and boat industries. There were massive job losses among blacksmiths, wainwrights (makers and repairers of wagons), drovers (cattle and sheep drivers), railroad workers, and canalmen.
I’ve written before about the process of creative destruction. It’s a term that was originally used by an Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950). Schumpeter described creative destruction as an essential process that takes place in a free-market economy that wipes out entire industries after new technologies are discovered and put into place.
Schumpeter explained that in a free-market capitalist economy, it is inevitable that as new products, services, and opportunities are created by entrepreneurs, companies and industries that are locked into the old way of doing business quickly vanish, causing the people in those industries to lose their jobs.
Over time, the concept of creative destruction has been used by free-market economists to explain how societies can become more productive, benefit from better products and services, and enjoy a higher standard of living. The dark side of creative destruction is that there are always large groups of individuals who end up being worse off because of the loss of jobs associated with the companies that were involved in the old way of doing business.
Last week, I wrote about how children who are under the age of six absorb and accept as true everything that is going on around them, without having the ability to first filter the information that they are absorbing.
I also wrote about how there is frustration among “conservative Catholics” who are upset with Pope Francis’s beliefs concerning capitalism, illegal immigration, redistribution of income, the death penalty, and climate change (formerly known as “global warming”).
Pope Francis was born and raised in Argentina, a country that has an economic and political system that is based on “socialism.” Socialism is generally defined as “an economic and political system in which a society is organized where major industries are owned and controlled by the government, rather than by individual people and companies.”
From the time of its founding, the American economic system has been based on “capitalism” which is generally defined as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”
Pope Francis was born in 1936. He was the oldest of 5 children. His father was an Italian immigrant. His mother was born in Argentina and was of Italian descent.
During the years that Pope Francis was growing up, he was exposed to and taught — in his home and the schools he attended — the political and economic philosophy of socialism. The only time he would have had the chance to learn anything about capitalism would have been in a classroom from a teacher who was biased toward socialism.
The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were based upon the economic and political philosophy of free-market capitalism. The philosophy and rights that were outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution helped to create the greatest free-market economy the world has ever seen.
It is because of our free-market economy and our right to own private property and operate our own businesses that we have been able to benefit from technologies that ushered in the modern-day automobile, plumbing, electricity, air conditioning, television, telecommunications, and the Internet.
Along with each of these new technologies came the trauma of the massive loss of jobs that were the result of creative destruction. But the new technologies ultimately created a significantly higher standard of living for everyone.
Even poor people in our country enjoy a higher standard of living than more than 90 percent of the rest of the world. Yet there are millions of people in the U.S. who have never learned the true benefits of capitalism and demand that the United States adopt the socialist policies of countries like Argentina.
If Pope Francis had been born and raised in America, his dad probably would have owned a Ford, Packard, or Chrysler. As a teenager, there’s a good chance Francis would have cruised Main Street in a Chevrolet with his buddies. There is no doubt that he would have had a better understanding and appreciation for free-market capitalism.
It is my belief that Pope Francis is a holy and honorable man and that his efforts to reach out and help people who are different and less fortunate than you and me are admirable. The Catholic Church has never officially endorsed socialism, illegal immigration, redistribution of income, climate change, or the abolition of the death penalty.
While we Catholics are required to abide by certain religious rules and doctrines, we are not required to adopt the political and social beliefs of other individuals. With regard to such beliefs, Pope Francis is simply another individual who has the God-given right to his own opinions.
Regardless of whether we agree with the opinions and beliefs of the pope, we should pray for him every day. He was, after all, chosen by the Holy Spirit to be the Vicar of Christ on Earth.