Hey kids! Have you ever played with a rubber band? You know, those stretchy little things that can hold papers together or launch a ball across the room? Well, what if I told you that there was quite a fight over the invention of the rubber band? We’re going to dive into the fascinating story of how the rubber band was invented, and how it relates to Austrian economics.
The Invention of the Rubber Band
The rubber band has been around for a long time, but do you know who invented it? Well, it turns out that many inventors came up with the idea of a stretchy band made out of rubber.
Thomas Hancock was one of the first inventors of the rubber band. He was in the stagecoach business and realized that when it rained, his passengers would get wet. So he started making waterproof gloves, shoes, and socks to keep his customers dry.
He soon developed a problem. Lots of scrap rubber. To deal with this, he invented the rubber masticator machine that turned useless rubber scraps into usable rubber bands. The problem was that they weren’t all that durable. So he started to work on a process to make rubber more durable.
At the same time in America, Charles Goodyear was working on the same problem. He solved the durability problem with a process called vulcanization. Vulcanization is where you combine rubber with sulfur and heat to make it last longer. He received patents in America for his invention but when he tried to get a patent in England he found that someone already had it. That’s right, Thomas Hancock was granted the English patent for a nearly identical process.
The fight was on! Goodyear and Hancock fought it out in the courts to see who really invented the vulcanization process. The problem was neither patented the idea of the rubber bands themselves. It was a big mistake.
An inventor that took advantage of this mistake was an Englishman named Stephen Perry. He patented the rubber band in 1845 as a way to bind books more efficiently. He realized that a rubber band would be perfect for holding them together.
But Perry wasn’t the only one who saw the potential in rubber bands. In America, William Spencer also patented a rubber band design in 1853. Spencer’s design was a little different from Perry’s, but it still used the same basic idea of a stretchy band made out of rubber. He used his version to hold newspapers together so they wouldn’t blow away in the wind.
So even though there were multiple inventors, the rubber band quickly became a popular item for people to use. And it’s still used today for all sorts of things!
Economic Value in Austrian Economic Theory
Now, you might be wondering what all of this has to do with economics. Well, in Austrian economic theory, there’s a concept called economic value.
Economic value is basically the idea that something is valuable because people want it and are willing to pay for it. So, for example, a rubber band is valuable because people need them to hold things together.
But what’s interesting is that the value of something can change depending on how people use it. For example, a rubber band might not be very valuable to someone who doesn’t need to hold things together very often. But to someone who uses them all the time, like a teacher who uses them to organize papers, rubber bands are very valuable.
Here are some other interesting uses for rubber bands
Organizing Cords: Use rubber bands to wrap and organize cords for electronics, appliances, and tools to prevent tangling and keep them in place.
- Improvised Grips: Place a rubber band around the handle of a jar, bottle, or any object that is difficult to grip to provide extra friction for easier opening and handling.
- Paint Drip Catcher: Place a rubber band on a paint can to wipe excess paint from your brush.
- Keep Clothing on Hangers: Wrap rubber bands around the ends of clothes hangers to prevent clothes from slipping off and falling to the bottom of your closet.
- Wrap clothes for traveling: When packing, wrap your clothes tightly with rubber bands to ensure they fit into your case.
So even though a rubber band might not seem like a big deal, it actually illustrates an important concept in economics. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll come up with an idea for a new and improved rubber band that will be even more valuable than the ones we have now!
So, there you have it, kids! The story of the rubber band and how it relates to the concept of economic value in Austrian economic theory. Next time you use a rubber band, think about how valuable it is to you and how it might be valuable to other people too. And who knows, maybe you’ll come up with an invention that will be just as important as the rubber band!