"You have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue you, for the law is too slow. I'll ruin you." ~ Cornelius Vanderbilt, aka The Commodore
Why yes, plucky blog follower, it has been a bit since Part 1 of the Robber Barons. The cause for the delay you wonder? Well I am now in place number 4 in a little over a year since graduating in search of work, and when I say place I mean city/state & not as in I went from NYC to Jersey either...more like one side of the country to another, I was preoccupied with other things (like finding a place to park my car overnight for free where I can sleep in it on the down low). In addition I had to let the duct tape set and heal over my injured hands & wounds so as I could actually type without considerable pain (driving under above mentioned conditions also makes for great fun!). *Coincidentally, my situation is relatively fantastic compared to many of my friends, people I've met, the horror stories, and the lives of some of my former clients who I was honored to help when I had the opportunity, see below.
*Above is basically what I did last Thursday for several hours to no effect.
But I digress...now onto Robber Barons Part 2!!!
"Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth." ~ Teddy Roosevelt
There's a beautiful island off of the coast of Georgia named Jekyll Island that is symbolic of the era that spawned it. In fact, it's so beautiful it has been used as a location for several movies (Glory & Legend of Bagger Vance to name a couple). But it's also an island that has a fascinating and pertinent history to discuss regarding Robber Barons (also considering the modern era). *Also, before continuing, I need to point out that this place and some of the events I will describe have been a source for conspiracy theories. Normally, I wouldn't have to mention this in my typical essays but, as I am posting this on the internet, I'm required to point out that those conspiracy theories are fucking insane and I give them no weight whatsoever. Otherwise, historical fact and relevance may be unfairly prejudiced by loons, nuts and the kind of people who first flocked to the internet as a vehicle for dissemination of ideas. Or just useless shills...*See MSU pro-lawschool bloggers.
One of the many things that Wikipedia, don't use this as a primary source kids, leaves out about Jekyll Island, also something I doubt that you learned about the island if you even knew it existed, is the following... At the height of Jekyll's popularity and prominence, the era is poetically known as the Gilded Age after the Mark Twain story, when the island's hotels & villas were fully occupied/a couple hundred members on it, one fifth of the world's wealth was there. Let me repeat that because it's important.
A few hundred people controlled 20 Percent of all the wealth in the world...
The "members" and residents included
*Incidentally, Louis Vuitton, the man, was a notorious anti-Semite, meaning he hates the Jew, so I always find it ironic when wealthy Jewish girls/law students & lawyers/celebrities are seen idolizing those stupid bags per Veblen's theory. Then again, Hugo Boss designed the SS and other Nazi uniforms and he's still pretty popular. For a fun and more in depth look at the bullshit and business surrounding such luxury items see Dana Thomas' Deluxe.
Now there are a number of different explanations for why such accumulation of wealth was even possible and each wing of the political spectrum certainly has their own take.
My view is that it's largely the result of arbitrary compensation structures, by that I mean a decision making paradigm/reward system based on culture & politics, rather than say the actual difficulty of the work involved or the value to the society. The seminal behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner raised a shitstorm several decades ago when he published a hypothetical treatise on what he believed a more sensible economic system would look like in a logical society. Also let's be clear---I'm not a communist, although some of those former communist countries seem to be doing pretty well. I'm a true free market capitalist who believes in competition...although the world's wealthiest always seem to label themselves as such when it's really not the case in history or practice of their fortunes.*See basically every corporation's history going back to East India Trading).
"Awww," says Audrey, "Such a whiny bitch! Only a sore loser would question our economy!"
So what's the problem with that kind of wealth, which is really just one of many different types of power, attributed in a few people...isn't it the natural consequence of our glorious economy? Whenever I turn on the mainstream teevee god, it tells me that it's the outcome of the greatest system from the greatest country ever, fucking ever. Well this guy writing for the Wall Street Journal's Blog isn't so sure and isn't the first to mention it.
*BTW, when the movie version of this musical was released President Nixon used his influence to have this removed from the film for being a slight against conservative ideology. True story, Nixon thought this borderline propaganda musical wasn't patriotic enough...Although, in fairness 1776 is filled with historical inaccuracies and mischaracterizations of people and views...but it may very well be true that "Most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of being rich than face the reality of being poor."
Edward Wolff, who is at NYU--home of one of my other favoritest smart people ever William Easterly, talks about the issue in this interview from 2003 pre-Great Recession.
Here's another article from 2006 talking about the "Wealth Gap" which has only gotten worse post-Great Recession.
As I've mentioned before, study after study shows that such a gap is a notorious predictor of instability within a society. Back during the Gilded Age, it was far more common for the average person or what some would call
But really, why would someone with that kind of job complain? Isn't that the kind of life every parent hopes for their child?
The interesting thing is that the kind of life depicted above has largely been eradicated in our country when it was once the norm (*See every 2nd or 3rd world country that makes your shit from every store you shop at...yeah even Apple you Hipster Fucks). It just doesn't exist here in the U.S. of A
When a single human being has that much influence over others, whether it be economic, spiritual, political, etc., tyranny and oppression is the inevitable result (Hey Plato! Fuck your Philosopher King!). Well how come it stopped when everyone just let it happen? As Frederick Douglass, one of my many heroes, once noted:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
The era of
The reformers eventually got a
You there! The overpaid asshole in the bowler hat & monocle! I'm going to beat the fuck out of you for the good of the country!
Well, given the current situation...I'm sure that any day now our current President will follow Teddy's lead in one of the many areas ripe for such a champion. I'm sure that he'll prove that his campaign--full of energy, promise, hope & vigor---wasn't just a bunch of bullshit. I'm sure any day now he'll take a real stand...on anything....at all. He's probably just waiting for the right opportunity...
Nope. I'm just trying to row the boat motherfucker.
It's not like there's a huge fucking environmental disaster, like say an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, that someone like Teddy would be all over every day of his term...*Dirty trade secret, I may actually get a legal job because of that catastrophe...it makes me feel dirty on the soul but who fucking cares money pays! Robber Baron-dom here I come!
P.S. Any pro-Obama or anti-Obama comment or email I get will likely be deleted. I'm not making or inviting political debate I merely used him as a rhetorical prop.
TILL NEXT TIME, Hot like Mexico! Don't call my name, don't call my name! AAAAANNND...