Most people take for granted the magnificent achievements of modern capitalism. Wherever you look, you will see the life-advancing technologies produced by modern industrialists, including automobiles, MRI machines, lumber, computers, mass-produced clothes, and on and on.

Some things are seemingly so mundane, and we use them so routinely, that we scarcely notice how important they are to our lives. Take, for example, common kitchen supplies. Pause for a moment to consider how businesses developed four essential products—and how important those products are to our daily food preparation.

Cling wrap: In 1933, Ralph Wiley, the “father of Saran,” discovered unusual polymers—subsequently called Saran resins—while working for Dow Jones Chemical Company. Starting in 1953, Dow Chemical sold Saran Wrap, justifiably billed in an ad as “the most amazing food wrap ever developed.” Imagine the wonder of seeing, for the first time, “the crystal-clear plastic that lets you see everything you wrap.” I use cling wrap (now made from polyethylene) virtually every day. . . .

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