Recently, I came across a list from the History Channel that highlighted seven inventions from the Gilded Age that transformed the world. As I read through the list, it brought back memories of a commentary I wrote years ago based on Mark Steyn’s book, After America. In that commentary, we imagined what it would be like to bring our great-grandfather living in the late 19th century to an ordinary American home in 1950. The poor gentleman would be astonished by the mechanical contraptions that filled this home. There would be a huge machine in the kitchen, full of food and keeping milk fresh and cold. He would hear an orchestra playing somewhere and then discover it came from a tiny box on the kitchen countertop.
He would look out the window and see a metal conveyance coming down the street at an incredible speed, enclosed with doors and windows. It’s like a house on wheels – cars had replaced horses and horse-drawn carriages entirely. But now imagine you could send someone from 1950 to our world today. I think they would be disappointed to find that not much has changed at all. Sure, there are computers and smartphones, but they might have expected more changes than they found. Most of the remarkable changes took place a hundred years ago.
As we reflect on this history, we can wonder why much of our technology reached a plateau. There are two reasons for this: physics and politics. We dream of flying cars, time machines, teleporting devices – but there are physical limits that prevent them from being created. The other reason is politics and especially bureaucratic regulations. Government makes it much more difficult for inventors and entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life – stifling innovation and imagination.
It’s time for us to roll back government regulations that stifle innovation and encourage entrepreneurs to take risks and create new technologies that will shape our future