Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Economics Changes Society

Karl Marx wrote that all history is economic history. While he may have taken it a bit too far, it is certainly true that culture can be influenced developments in the business world. In the second half of the 1800's, economic growth makes itself felt, as the historical narrative tells

about how the newly powerful corporations transformed America; how they intensified their search for a new forms of production and management; how the jobs they generated attracted millions of immigrants, southern blacks, and young single women to northern cities; and how they triggered an urban cultural revolution that made amusement parks, dance halls, vaudeville theater, and movies integral features of American life. [Cengage's history book]

While the business world was seeking to explore the capabilities of science and technology, society explored the new options it found in these developments:

The free market is an intricate system of voluntary economic, social, and cultural interactions that are motivated by the desires and needs of the individual and the community. [Mark Levin]

In a complex web of millions of individual actions, individual choices add up to form both economic and cultural trends. Each person minutely and indirectly affects the course of society:

while the symmetry between the free market and the civil society is imperfect—that is, not all developments resulting from individual interactions contribute to the overall well-being of the civil society—one simply cannot exist without the other. [Levin]

Because of the complexity, indirectness, and subtle manner in which these millions of economic actions and cultural preferences add up, it is impossible to predict their ultimate direction, and their progress will not be perfectly efficient. Despite difficulties, setbacks, false starts, and dead ends, the general pattern will emerge, yielding both individual and societal gains.