The primary success of America in the 19th and early 20th century wasn't because it was an industrialized nation, but rather because it was an innovative nation.
It's incredible really when you think about it, but virtually all of modernity was invented in America--electricity, the light bulb, the telegraph, the telephone, radio, television, the typewriter, the washer-dryer, air conditioning, the airplane, the helicopter, the computer, the satellite, space flight, the personal computer, the internet, the cell phone, the list just goes on and on, not to mention all the advances in farming and medicine, vaccines and pharmaceuticals...
Go back 200 years and think of a world without modernity. Then name one country that could have invented it all. You can't.
But you're right, America became prosperous because it was an industrial nation, though one built on innovation. And America did rebuild Europe and Japan after WWII, because it was the only industrial country left. Today, the entire world benefits from what America bequeathed to it.
However, what your missing in your otherwise astute observation is that, after the Civil War, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, America underwent an educational revival. I've studied the curricula and assignments from that period, and I'm telling you the standards were incredibly strict. An 8th grade education then would be the equivalent to a graduate program today.
Also, between 1924 and 1965, America had a moratorium on immigration. The people believed that immigrants, and there were a lot after WWI, had to be assimilated. And the way to do that was through education. It was very hard to get a high school diploma, much less a college degree, back then, it was even harder to become a US citizen. In fact, 1/3rd of the immigrants gave up and returned to their home countries, because they couldn't assimilate.
But then, back in the day, natural born citizens didn't really need a high school diploma or a college degree to get a job. They could drop out, get a job and work their way up through the company. Because what little education they did receive was comprehensive and strict. The knew how to read, how to write, and how to perform arithmetic, which is all you really need to know to be successful.
What this system built was the greatest middle class the world has ever known. Unfortunately, it all fell apart in the 1960s, and continues to fall apart to this day. It's not just that the industrial base has been shipped overseas, it's that the education system that created the industrial base has been dismantled and replaced with idiocy.
Of course, we need to rebuild our industrial base, but first we need to reconstruct our education system, so that graduates and even drop outs have the essential skills necessary for innovation and productivity.
This comment was left by GawainsGhost at PJ Media - Read more of GawainsGhost's comments at http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/racial-relations-tragic-collapse/?show-at-comment=1636061#comment-1636061
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