The Most Influential Person in the 20th Century

Topics: Working class, Assembly line, Ford Motor Company Pages: 1 (405 words) Published: March 1, 2007
Given what we know from history or personal experience, one must acknowledge that an influential person has to be someone with an extraordinary vision, someone that has made an impact on the world. Influence can be defined in a myriad of ways. I define "influence" in terms of direct change in the concrete circumstances of individual lives. It would be hard to identify anyone whose influence has been both more widespread and more beneficial than Henry Ford's. Ford didn't invent modern industry. He didn't invent interchangeable parts or the assembly line. But he combined these elements in a way that revolutionized the meaning of manufacturing. And he did so deliberately. Ford's genius was to make cars simple, solid and inexpensive necessities. That philosophy paid off when Ford's $850 Model T became the most successful vehicle ever produced in America which helped propel Ford Motor Company to become the largest industrial organization of the early 20th century. By the end of World War I, economies of scale had made it so affordable that half of all the cars in the world were Model T's. Ford's impact on Twentieth Century business was perhaps most important for the immeasurable impact he had on American life. As Ford adapted the emerging principles of mass production to the automobile and hired tens of thousands of workers to put those principles into practice, he gave rise to an entirely new phenomenon: the blue-collar middle class. He proved that one of the most damning charges in the Marxist indictment of capitalism was wrong. Marx insisted that capitalist economics would never allow the working class to be able to buy anything more than the necessities of life. While the academics squabbled over whether this was true, the Detroit carmaker proved that it wasn't. Thanks to the example set by Henry Ford, by the end of the 1920's there was one car per every 5 persons in the U.S.

Henry Ford's revolution wasn't technological or even industrial as such. It was a...
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