It being Labor Day, there will doubtless be many political speeches and newspaper articles touching on the rise of the American middle class and crediting this rise to labor unions and perhaps also to FDR’s New Deal.
I don’t mind giving some of the credit to unions. But the primary driver of middle class affluence has been the availability of plentiful and low-cost energy…especially in the form of electricity…coupled with a whole array of productivity-increasing tools and methods, ranging from the horse-drawn harvester to the assembly line to the automated check sorting machine.
The middle class affluence enabled by these factors is gravely threatened is gravely threatened by the Democratic-“progressive” hostility toward energy production and distribution in all practical forms, and by the endless set of productivity-sapping policies advocated by the same group of people.
Over the long term, or even the medium term, a nation cannot consume more than it produces. It doesn’t matter how aggressive the unions are, or what tax policies are in place, or how much Oprah-like sympathy for the unfortunate is exuded by politicians–if you harm the productive power of a nation, its average standard of living is going to go down.
Low-energy, low-productivity societies can support a very wealthy elite, and have historically often done so, but they cannot support a broadly affluent middle class.