These words seem as applicable and worthy of somber reflection today as when they were first written:
“Poverty leapt forward simultaneously with wealth. From 1760 to 1818 the population of England increased 70 percent; the poor relief increased 530 percent.
Here, then, we have the incredible paradox of modern life. The instrument [the machinery of the Industrial Revolution] by which all humanity could rise from want and the fear of want actually submerged a large part of the people in perpetual want and fear.
When wealth was multiplying beyond all human precedent, an immense body of pauperism with all its allied misery was growing up and becoming chronic. England was foremost in the introduction of machine industry, and the first half of the 19th century was one of the darkest times in the economic history of England. While the nation was attaining unparalleled wealth and power, many of its people were horribly destitute and degraded.
It is hardly likely that any social revolution, by which hereafter capitalism may be overthrown, will cause more injustice, more physical suffering, and more heartache than the industrial revolution by which capitalism rose to power.
That such an evil turn could be given to an event that held such a power for good, is a crushing demonstration that the moral forces of humanity failed to keep pace with its intellectual and economic development.
Men [sic.] learned to make wealth much faster than they learned to distribute it justly. Their eye for profit was keener than their ear for the voice of God and humanity. That is the great sin of modern humanity, and unless we repent, we shall perish by that sin.”
–Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918), “Christianity and the Social Crisis” (1907).