Big Businessmen: Robber Barons

Improved Essays
Significant controversy over the question if the big business men of the late nineteenth century were “robber barons” has been widely debated by historians. Notably, Howard Zinn (yes) and John S. Gordon (no) have documented their reasonings behind their opinions on if the big business men truly were “robber barons” or simply “captains of industry”. Most significant was Howard Zinn’s argument that they were robber barons based on how they treated workers, as well as the issues of scandals, bribery, and corruption. The workers were met with terrible conditions and treatment from the impersonal business men they worked for. Scandals, bribery, and corruption put more money into the pockets of these big business men in an unjust manner. On …show more content…
The infamous Credit Mobiler Scandal is a prime example mentioned in Zinn’s argument that shows the corruption of big businesses and the bribery that allowed this to occur. The robber barons willingly took the $94 million they were given for construction. However, the construction was only valued at $44 million. With an abundance of un-used money, Oakes Ames came up with the idea of paying off certain government officials to keep the scandal a private affair (Zinn 54). This bribery led to the corruption between the government and big businesses, which was against the impoverished workers, the majority. The Credit Mobiler still had an excessive amount of money, but they didn’t use it to raise wages for the laborers who barely made anything. Scandals of big businesses thrived on bribery which led to corruption. It proved the big business men to be robber barons. They warmly welcomes money that was more than needed because a common goal of inventors was to get rich. With the beginning of a millionaire class, robber barons of big business became more common because of the desire to win great …show more content…
Gordon believed that the so-called robber barons were not at all robber barons. Their great industrial contributions to America were so significant that their lust for money couldn’t possibly be seen as a bad thing. Inventions including wrought iron, the Bessemer Process, the Standard Oil Company, and many more brought a new industrialized America. According to Gordon, the big businesses who led and organized these industries could barely fall under the classification of robber barons. He refutes the claims made by Zinn that make up a robber baron. He uses the example of the Standard Oil Company’s process for gaining more money and control over their refinery processes. They used rebates, even through the railroads, to help their monopoly of the oil industry. This seemed rather harmless compared to the detriments to workers that Zinn mentioned. Therefore, Gordon was able to say that they weren’t truly robber barons (Gordon 71). Their vast contribution outshined any slightest bit of corruption. Gordon’s argument that there were not big business men that were robber barons is proven insignificant in comparison to Zinn’s claims because of the consequences of industrialization that he mentions. He furthers his argument by stating that what the robber barons did can’t be proven wrong because it wasn’t illegal. However, he mentions that as a problem, so he is refuting his own ideas in a sense (Gordon 71). The evidence for Gordon’s argument doesn’t

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    it’s also told that robber barons make huge fortunes and workers didn't get much of the money because the pay was so little. Folsom finds fault in textbooks for only telling the political entrepreneur side and leaving out the side of market entrepreneurs. Folsom also says how historians conception about entrepreneurs is misleading because many teach things such as "Entrepreneurs cut costs and made many contributions to American economic growth, but they also marred political life by bribing politicians and misusing government funds" (p.…

    • 702 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Spiegel wasn’t afraid to fire his employees that were working below the usual or the standard. Many people have said that he is headstrong and very arrogant. Some of those people say that he has to be that way in order to drive the company. Reggie Brown, one of the company’s co-founders, filed a lawsuit against Spiegel, claiming that he was forced off of the team by Spiegel. Evan Spiegel has been more of a robber baron than a captain of industry with the Snapchat company.…

    • 436 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Chapter 7: (The Spoilsmen: An Age of Cynicism) The Spoilsmen were also known as Robber Barons or Captains of Industry. From 1865 through the Industrial Revolution, they controlled most of the wealth, and thought that since they or their parents worked hard to get it they deserved it. The Republican Party was corrupt at this time, and was more successful than the Democrats. All the Republican Presidents during this time period were corrupt in some way, and even the leaders of the Republican Party were corrupt, men like Roscoe Conkling and James G. Blaine. In fact, there was so much corruption that reformers were few and frowned upon by the general public.…

    • 1878 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    This is why they didn't have any respect for people who earned their money, and looked down on these people as if they were peasants or savages. If you really think about it the real savages were these greedy en who thought that they could do whatever they wanted even if it was illegal because they could pay their way out of anything they wanted to. The business men's actions had no repercussions. If you know you could get away with anything because you had all the money in the world, wouldn't you be just like these men? Where living in a big city and fame and fortune was much more appealing than a family farmer or small business owner.…

    • 947 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    What Is AIG Ethical?

    • 816 Words
    • 4 Pages

    AIG was buying and bribing official by staying involve with the laws and ruling in the government (Thorne, Ferrell, & Ferrell, 2011). The government did not enforce or monitor this company correctly because its behavior was going on for years before the bubble burst on them. In my opinion the cost outweigh the benefits because AIG enjoyed the benefits of living a lavish lifestyle with perks and toys, but it cost the economy a big loss and other businesses that were not able to get a bailout because of their reckless behavior. There were many people affected by the irresponsible actions of this company. The kicker to me was that they repeated the same action once given more money to correct the damage already in place.…

    • 816 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    Madoff’s Ponzi scheme involved Mr. Madoff taking money from investors and investing it into his bank account instead of actual investments. Mr. Madoff promoted a significant return on these investments which caught the eye of these big name investors. Apparently, these actions are extremely unethical and have changed the lives of many people. Mr. Madoff’s family claims not to know anything…

    • 1062 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Great Essays

    There were millions of dollars taken from the company for selfish needs such as decorating apartments for executives as well as employees, unauthorized bonuses, artwork, avoiding imported taxes, and loan forgiveness’s to employees (Case No. 4: Tyco International: Leadership Crisis, n.d). When Dennis chose his board members, he made sure to choose the ones who knew about his way of work, which was stealing money. Other people who most likely deserved the position may have been turned down because of Dennis favoritism. Not only were most Tyco employees in harm, but Tyco’s shareholders had a fall as well because money was being taken, without their acknowledgement.…

    • 1639 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The wealthy businessmen argued that they had worked hard for their wealth and deserved to be rich, they refused to pay their fair share of taxes to help out the rest of the American people and the American economy. Rich businessmen did not like the establishment of a minimum wage because it took money from their great wealth, despite the fact that the establishment of a minimum wage helped to balance out the uneven distribution of wealth that the US economy was having. According to Sarah Carroll, “There was a major unequal distribution of income that led to the richest 1% of Americans owning approximately 40% of the country’s wealth”(3). The establishment of the minimum wage ensured that the wealth was trickling down instead of just accumulating all at the top with the upper class, which in turn helped the uneven distribution of…

    • 1262 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    The time period from 1870 to 1900 was a time of American turmoil. Although the country had been plunged into the shadows of huge corporations which manipulated the government, many spokespeople acted as if all were fine. This corrupted facade is what caused Mark Twain to label the time period as the Gilded Age. During the Gilded Age, monopolies took over business in America, buying out their competitors leaving consumers no choice but to buy their products. The wealthy heads of these monopolies used their money to bribe government official and push for their own gain.…

    • 1780 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    This shows how industrialization affected the social aspects of society because with the success in large businesses the rich became richer while the poorer class is left behind. Industrialization also affected society in that practices of big businesses became more corrupt. Big businesses started to use monopolies because of the growing competitions in businesses. Oil was a large growing industry at this time and ran many other oil industries out of business (Doc G). Rockefeller, the leader of the oil company, used corrupt strategies to eventually be the only oil company to rely on in society.…

    • 1115 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays