Volume 2 of historian John Ashworth’s discussion in Slavery, Capitalism, and Politics in the Antebellum Republic touches on a shift in Americans’ views toward wage labor. This shift anticipated the rise of the Republican Party’s “free labor” ideology, and then continued to develop concurrent with it. Prior to this shift, Americans widely viewed wage labor as invested with little dignity, as scarcely preferable than indentured service. If one worked for wages, respectability required that one aim to work out of this form of employment, saving toward property ownership or work as an independent artisan. Only those who couldn’t or wouldn’t move out of wage labor remained in that condition permanently. Lifelong wage labor was for losers.
One would hesitate, for the most obvious of reasons, to dispute astrophysics with a Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist, but the case is quite otherwise with a Nobel prize-winning economist. This at the very least suggests a difference in the intellectual difficulty, rigor, or foundation of the two sciences. Common sense will not get you very far with black holes or antimatter, but in economics common sense is a necessary if not a sufficient quality in him who would think about it.