America stands at a dramatic crossroads: Massive corporations wield disturbing power. The huge income gap between the one percent and the other 99 percent grows wider. Astounding new technologies are changing American lives.
Sound familiar? These and other issues that characterize the early 21st century were also the hallmarks of the transformative periods known as the Gilded Age (1865-1900) and the Progressive Era (1900-1920). Before the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, America was a developing nation, with a largely agrarian economy and virtually no role in global affairs. Yet by 1900, within 35 years, the US had emerged as the world's greatest industrial power.
Explore these tumultuous times in America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Over decades marked by economic, political, social, and technological upheavals, the US went from an agrarian, isolationist country to the world's greatest industrial power and a nascent geopolitical superpower. In a time rife with staggering excess, social unrest, and strident calls for reform, these and other remarkable events created the country that we know today: industrialization gave rise to a huge American middle class; voluminous waves of immigration added new material to the "melting pot" of US society; the phenomenon of big business led to the formation of labor unions and the adoption of consumer protections; electricity, cars, and other technologies forever changed the landscape of American life.
In taking the measure of six dramatically innovative decades, you'll investigate the economic, political, and social upheavals that marked these years, as well as the details of daily life and the cultural thinking of the times. In the process, you'll meet robber barons, industrialists, socialites, reformers, inventors, conservationists, women's suffragists, civil rights activists, and passionate progressives, who together forged a new United States.
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Another great course by Professor O'Donnell
The Past is Prolog
The realization that so little has changed after over a hundred years.
"What's past is prologue"
--> William Shakespeare
"The Tempest", Act 2, Scene I George Santayana (1863 - 1952) <--
The lectures presented in "America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era" provide much food for thought, and it will not take long for the 'reader' to start comparing and contrasting events happening today.
That a few individuals, like John D. Rockefeller (Oil), Andrew Carnegie (Steel) and J.P. Morgan (Finance), just to mention a few, actually built the great industrial and financial power of the United States almost single-handidly is beyond question. There are good reasons these men, and others, are often called the 'Captains of Industry and Finance', and a like number of good reasons they are referred to as 'Robber Barons' in the same breath.
Laissez-faire economics, Capitalism, Mercantilism or 'Free Market' economy all have the same basic goal: A few individuals will be 'successful', everybody else will be a 'loser'. The more money the successful make, the more they want. There is no such thing as 'enough' money, only 'more' money. The 'Wealth Race' between Rockefeller and Carnegie is a perfect example. Money means Power, and the more money, the more power, until such vast fortunes are amassed that they can start dictating the 'rules of the road' to the government either by influence (called 'lobbyists') or out-and-out purchase (of key Congressmen through 'campaign financing'), and always to their advantage. This is exactly what happened during the 'Gilded Age'. It is also exactly what is happening today. Methodology has changed somewhat, but the Goal is the same.
Yesterday (during the Gilded age), The 'movers and shakers' of Industry and Finance formed vast 'Trusts'. Railroads, Steel, Financial Groups, even the meat packing industry, nearly every industry in the US became part of one 'Trust' or another. The word 'Trust' sounds so much better than 'Monopoly', but means exactly the same thing. When the Trusts became big enough, they were 'allowed' to buy up the competition, or drive them out of the market by underselling them (until they got what they wanted). The Methodology has changed somewhat today. Now, we have 'Leveraged Buyouts', 'Hostile Takeovers', and 'Corporate Mergers', which are, in reality, the same thing as a Trust. Back then, the Progressives became pretty good at 'Trust Busting', starting with Teddy Roosevelt, and limited at least some of their power. They (the Trusts) never went away entirely.
Who became the 'Losers' in this system? The usual suspects; the Third Estate, the Workers, the Middle-Class, anyone not rich enough to write the rules. During the 'Gilded Age', the work force had virtually no power, so 'they' started forming Unions to try to get 'management' to see their plight. If management refused to listen, they would simply walk off the job, refuse to work and even seize the factory (called a 'lockout') to prevent 'Scab' workers from being brought in. Management's answer was usually the same - Call in the Pinkertons (actually a private army), or the National Guard, or even the military to break up the strike, then hire new help that may be happy working a 16 hour day, 6 day week, for half-pay (as at Carnegie's Homestead Steel plant). The Progressive Movement was part of the push for unions, finally culminating in the 'Wagner Act' during FDR's presidency.
For a time, business was stymied by the Unions; they're here, and they're going to stay. What to do? It took awhile, but business finally found a solution: Globalization. Want to get rid of Unions? Simply pack up your production plant, and send it all to China, where Unions are not allowed (being a Communist country). Union problems solved! Now the workers can earn 39 cents/hour for a 12 hour day, six day week. That's what the happy workers at Apple's plant make for putting your iPhone together.
Hopefully, by 'reading' "America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era", some of us 'may' learn from History. As long as America lives by 'The Golden Rule', not a lot can be done about it, even by the Progressives. What is 'The Golden Rule'? "He who has the Gold, makes the Rules". Indeed, The Past is Prolog.
- Charles Stembridge "Proteus"