The media also say, “The middle class is in decline.” It’s true, Mitchell points out. “It’s shrinking because more people move into upper-income quintiles! The rich get richer in a capitalist society. But guess what? The rest of us get richer as well.” Myth No. 4: Capitalism creates unsafe workspaces. “Greedy capitalists” will risk workers’ lives to increase production if government, through agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, doesn’t stop that. It’s logical to assume that government regulation saves lives. Workplace deaths dropped after the OSHA was created. Government officials like showing a graph of the decline. But if you bother to also look at data from before the OSHA’s creation, you see that deaths fell at the same rate before regulation began! Why? “As we become richer, we become safer,” says Dan Mitchell of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Wealth created by capitalism lets us afford safety devices and build machines to do dangerous work. The OSHA is like someone jumping in front of a parade and claiming he led the parade. “We need more capitalism because when people get rich, they can afford more safety!” adds Mitchell.
The media suggest that today’s wealth gap proves that’s no longer true. But they are wrong. Capitalism’s gradual progress continues. Cornelius Vanderbilt was also born poor. At age 11, he quit school to work on boats. Then he invented ways to make travel cheaper. He cut the New York-Hartford fare from $5 to $1. His competitors hated him for cutting prices. It was they who convinced the gullible media to call Rockefeller and other entrepreneurs “robber barons.” Myth No. 5: “Unfettered” capitalism created evil “robber barons” who got rich by “exploiting” workers and consumers. It’s true that more than 100 years ago, a few entrepreneurs, such as John D. Rockefeller, amassed a huge amount of wealth. But Rockefeller was neither robber nor baron. He was not born rich, and he didn’t rob. He got rich by offering consumers better deals. Rockefeller developed ways to deliver oil for less. He won customers by lowering the price of kerosene from 26 cents per gallon to about 6 cents. For the first time, average people could afford fuel for lanterns so they could read after dark. Rockefeller may have even “saved the whales” by making oil so cheap that killing whales to get whale oil was no longer practical.
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