The spinning jenny, the use of coke in iron smelting, and the steam engine did not need Newton’s calculus, Harvey’s theory of the circulation of the blood, the heliocentric approach to astronomy or other scientific advances of the day. Deirdre McCloskey’s great “Bourgeois Equality” (2016) suggests it was ultimately liberty that made England’s leap forward so unique. Middle-class folks could increasingly engage in entrepreneurial activities without being stifled by the aristocracy or the state. It became first acceptable, then profitable, to have bourgeois virtues of thrift, hard work, ingenuity and even a bit of greed. Smart craftsmen invented simple but highly productive machines in this environment of freedom and the rule of law. That said, after the Industrial Revolution had passed (say after 1870), more sophisticated technological advances required the scientific foundation that Mr. Mokyr emphasizes.
Arnold Kling weighs in on some economists’ new-found fears of monopsony power in modern American labor markets – a fear that is, I believe, completely unjustified.