We’ve moved from an agrarian through the industrial to the new information economy
Three hundred years ago the world’s wealthiest people owned land. For centuries wars were fought to control land. Kings owned land, and by controlling it captured the value of everything produced on that land. As governments developed, reducing the role of kings, land barons became the wealthiest people in the world. In an agrarian economy, where most human resources (and pretty much all others for that matter) were deployed in food and shelter production owning land was the most valuable thing on the planet.
But then some 120 years ago along came the industrial revolution. Suddenly, productivity rose dramatically by applying new machines to jobs formerly performed by humans. With this shift, value changed. The great industrialists were able to capture the value of greater productivity – making people like Cyrus McCormick, Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie the wealthiest of the wealthy. Worth more than kings, government leaders, most states and many foreign countries.
The age of manufacturing was based upon the productivity of machines and the application of industrial processes to what formerly was hand labor. Creating tools – from engines to automobiles to airplanes – created great wealth. Knowing how to make these machines, and making them, created enormous value. And companies like General Motors, General Dynamics and General Electric were worth much more than the land upon which food was produced.