… is from page 98 of the final volume – Bourgeois Equality – of economic-historian Deirdre McCloskey’s vital trilogy on the essence and role of bourgeois values in modern life:
Competition, which sets entrepreneurs against one another for our benefit, needs to be encouraged, not checked. Wages were in fact rising and children were being taken out of English factories before the legalization of trade unions and well before the factory legislation began seriously to bite.
Higher wages and improved work conditions were not supplied by heroic collective-bargaining efforts, by unions threatening to strike, or by any of the slew of finely named but economically counterproductive statutes such as, in the United States, the National Labor Relations Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act. Higher wages and improved work conditions were supplied by what Deirdre calls “trade-tested innovation” in combination with competition of entrepreneurs and businesses for market share and for inputs, including the input ‘labor’ – as well as worker freedom to choose among jobs and employment terms, and the freedom of employers not only to compete for workers but also to fire or lay-off workers at will.