Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek wrote in the Preface to this 1954 collection, "The first three papers in this volume were originally presented to a gathering of an international group of economists, historians, and social philosophers who for some years have been meeting regularly to discuss the problems of the preservation of a free society against the totalitarian threat... It was ... suggested that this might be usefully combined with reprinting some earlier papers by members of the Society dealing with closely connected topics... I have tried, in an Introduction ... to explain the wider significance of the problem discussed in the earlier pages." (NOTE: Page numbers below refer to the 1967 184-page edition by the University of Chicago.)
Hayek observes, "The proletariat which capitalism can be said to have 'created' was thus not a proportion of the population which would have existed without it and which it had degraded to a lower level; it was an additional population which was enabled to grow up by the new opportunities for employment which capitalism provided." (Pg. 16) Concerning the conditions of industrial workers, he suggests that "While there is every evidence that great misery existed, there is none that it was greater than or even as great as it had been before." (Pg. 18)
One author points out that the "common charge of inhumanity" against the 19th century "would be an idle slander if it were not so gross." He notes that the 19th century introduced on a broad scale public health and public education, and made possible the "amazing climb of real wages in industrialized countries." (Pg. 64-65) He adds that the anticapitalism of the New Dealers is "political and moral; for certainly no serious case has been made out against capitalism as such." (Pg. 87)
Bertrand de Jouvenel argues that researchers using the comparative method might have found that "a massive influx into the towns, with the resultant squalor and pauperism, occurred as well in countries untouched by the Industrial Revolution, where they produced waves of beggars instead of underpaid workers." (Pg. 99)
T.S. Ashton (author of The Industrial Revolution, 1760-1830 (C Opus T Opus N)) comments approvingly on the 19th century's growth of trade unions, friendly societies, savings banks, popular newspapers, schools, and noncomformist chapels: "all give evidence of the existence of a large class raised well above the level of mere subsistence." (Pg. 154)
Another commentator observes that the famous/infamous Sadler Report was negatively reviewed by Friedrich Engels, as being "emphatically partisan, composed by strong enemies of the factory for party ends." (Pg. 160)
This challenging collection will be of great interest to defenders of the free market, or those wanting more information about this era.