April 26, 2022

Learning from the Industrial Revolution in England
What can South Africa learn from those historical events? The first lesson would be that the peaceful revolution was carried out by industrialists and not by government. Another would be to note that, at the time, the government was not involved in education. In fact, there were no compulsory schooling laws and initially, no government funding for education, yet there was a high level of literacy among factory workers. Professor Edwin West, who researched the subject, concluded that there was an Education Revolution in England running in parallel to the Industrial Revolution.
South Africans should heed that early history. It was the relative freedom of the individuals who became the industrialists, with no prohibitions to prevent them from inventing new machines, and instituting new methods, that led to the revolution in the production of goods and services. The corn laws, which were in place between 1815 and 1846, prohibited the importation of corn to prevent competition with local farmers. The laws drove up the price of corn-based products to consumers and represented the worst intervention inflicted by the English government on manufacturers and their customers during this period.