Robber Barons

Have you ever heard the names John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, or even John Jacob Astor?  Maybe you’ve heard of these guys… and maybe you haven’t.  They ruled industry in the 19th century and were considered to be more powerful than even the President of the United States.  The term “robber baron” was scripted to fit these men, and many others.  They wealthy industrialists got whatever they wanted.  And if someone in Washington tried to get in their way, they usually pushed back with more force that usually ended that person’s career.  Think this might sound a little familiar?

The term “robber baron” derives from medieval German Lords that use to impose tolls to ships travelling the Rhine River.  In the 1890s, it had come to be used to describe any wealthy businessman that used questionable practices to become wealthy.  It combined the sense of criminal “robber” with illegitimate aristocracy “baron”.  These guys controlled all the important industries… oil, steel, fur, railroads, and even real estate and finance.  If it wasn’t sounding familiar before, how about now?

These giants of industry (or robber barons) were eventually brought down by one of their own… President Theodore Roosevelt, a man who was born rich and privileged.  Growing up, Roosevelt personally knew the families of Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, etc.  And yet, it would be this man that would see what these men were representing.  This is the time period when anti-trust laws came about, child labor laws, working conditions, health codes.  When it comes to clean water or fresh meat, it comes to the era of Teddy Roosevelt.  It took some time… and even some later Presidents (such as Taft) to continue busting up the monopolies and the power that these families had built up.  The overall point being, that the power these industrialists had on government had been hit and broken.  Sadly, it just didn’t stay that way.

Now let me ask you if you know some other names… Ken Lay, Daniel Mudd, Richard Syron, Ken Lewis, Rupert Murdoch, or Rex Tillerson?  Some of the names might sound familiar and some might not.  These men currently are or once were powerful men in their respective fields… Enron, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Bank of America, NewsCorp, and ExxonMobile.  I chose these names in particular as they cover the areas of energy, finance, and the media.  Did you know that JPMorgan Chase was fined for its roll with the Enron and WorldCom scandals at the beginning of the 21st century that actually helped the “dot-com bust”?  Bank of America is the world’s largest wealth management corporation covering 80% of Americans.  And one should currently look at the Board of Directors for ExxonMobile… where tentacles are reaching out into other industries by having the heads of other companies on the very governing body of this energy conglomerate.  PepsiCo, AT&T, General Mills, Campbell Soup, and Chase Manhattan are just a few to list.

Not only has the United States reentered a world that President Roosevelt began to bust up while he was president, but the entire industrialized world is now falling victim to this.  The mighty industrialists (robber barons) of our day have deep pockets and have government wrapped around their pinky fingers.  It’s these robber barons that we blame for this worldwide economic recession that we are currently in… and the housing crisis here in the US.  They were cooking the books and knowingly making bad business decisions in order to turn a bigger profit.

President Obama, on December 6, attempted to resurrect the spirit of President Roosevelt, but in my opinion, he will fall short.  Roosevelt is a larger-than-life figure.  After having several sub-par Presidents in the US, it was Teddy that brought back the power to the executive mansion and away from big business.  These days, big business is just too ingrained within the halls of our government.  And from what I’ve seen out of all the candidates running on the two major party tickets, none of them have the skills necessary to do what needs to be done once again to these industrialists and to their companies.

The ordinary people that make up the majority of society have been marginalized and pushed aside.  Somehow, over the past decades, we have allowed this to happen.  We have turned a blind eye until now.  So can anything be done to break up the strangle-hold these robber barons have on our government, our economy, and even ourselves?  I don’t have the answers to that.  But I think a good start would be to bust up these “too big to fail” conglomerates and bring back free enterprise… a free market society.  Consumers need more choices not bigger industries.  We talk about how we are against big government… and even vote that way.  It wasn’t until the Occupy Wall Street movement that a voice began to be heard against big business.  There is much work to be done, and it will take time to do it.  Unfortunately, this time we don’t have a Teddy Roosevelt to guide us and to swing his big club.  For now, these robber barons of the 21st century are here to stay and continue to gain in wealth and power while placing us under a stranglehold.  We can make sure, though, that we fight them all the way and make sure our voices are even louder.

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14 Responses to Robber Barons

  1. Hot jobs says:

    Love what you are doing with the blog man!

  2. Kurt Wansing says:

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  3. Binky says:

    First Organize
    Then Educate
    Then Organize

    • Biff Biffington and the biffingtons says:

      Here Here Binky!!! What’s this crap “These giants of industry (or robber barons) were eventually brought down by one of their own… ” What a blatant lie. That’s as far as I got in this blog after first seeing the picture inaccurately describing the four men mentioned…I don’t have the time or desire to educate this self proclaimed “study of early American history.” Suffice it to say James, I suggest you go back to school. Here endeth the lesson.

      • James S. says:

        Actually, Biff, I never claimed the picture was the four men I mentioned…. in case you hadn’t noticed. You actually just assumed that was what I was claiming. Never assume anything. And yes, it was Teddy Roosevelt that began busting up these monopolies when he was President. And yes, he was friends with these people… grew up knowing their families.

      • James S. says:

        I’m actually posting a quick update from my last reply to your comment. As with anything, I’m constantly reading and learning… which can help clarify things. Now, I was partly right and partly incorrect in things that were stated in the overall piece. The part I was right… Roosevelt did break up monopolies. He was the first to take a stance. Taft would do more than Roosevelt ever did, though Roosevelt gets more of the acclaim from it. And the part where I was incorrect, Roosevelt believed in big business, and believed they were there to stay, and thought that government role was in regulating these trusts to prevent them from doing evil. Roosevelt said in 1912, “the limitation of governmental power, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.” It amazes me that the Roosevelt view of then is held by the Democratic party of today… regulate the big businesses. Republicans of today hold the “leave them alone” side… and no one really holds the view of the Democratic party of 1912 which is to break them up. “Under the trusts capital hires men; under a real corporation, men hire capital.” Louis Brandeis in advising Woodrow Wilson.

        Again… I’m just as human as anyone else. And as I learn, I’m willing to make adjustments… and even admit when some (or all) of what I say is incorrect. To not do so would be foolish. And on the last note, I still stick to my guns about the picture since I never said who was in the picture, and you assumed it was the four men I mentioned when I could have mentioned five or more. I just used names most people would be familiar with a picture of a few of the robber barons of their time.

  4. Biff Biffington and the biffingtons says:

    The photo you posted of the four so called “Robber Barons” more accurately named “Titans of American Industry and Charity” depicts John Pierpont Morgan, genius, not John Jacob Astor

    • James S. says:

      Again… I never listed who was actually in the picture. And John Piermont Morgan (J.P. Morgan) was considered in that category as he was the guy that was mostly in charge of the nation’s finances (or at least that was what people usually said back then).

  5. J.P. Morgan is the devil.

  6. Roy Clement Jr says:

    My Great Grandfather Leonard B Parish was Teddy Roosevelt body guard when Roosevelt was govenor of New York State and got involved in some of the rotten things that went on because of Andrew Carnige the most despicable man to ever do business on WallStreet.

  7. Willow says:

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  8. Jamila Syktich says:

    Definitely, what a magnificent site and educative posts, I will bookmark your blog.Best Regards!

  9. Pingback: Letters to Ted Kaczynski: Part I | BVL

  10. Sandra Noble says:

    Why are people so rude? If you disagree with the blogger, then do so professionally. No need to be insulting/condescending.

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