The Economy And Political Legacy Of The Gilded Age

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During the Gilded Age, a lot of things happened such as, monopolies, trusts, industrialization, immigrants, workers unions, strikes, political issues, and much more, but the issues that impacted the most were the Robber Barons and the working class. The word Robber Baron was a derogatory term used for industrialists who made a fortune by monopolizing industries by partaking in unethical business behaviors such as exploitation of workers and paying them next to nothing. It can be agreed though that robber barons affected the economy with their ways both positively and negatively. Their primary goal was to increase profits and resorted to any methods to achieve their objectives. These badly affected American workers which led to riots, strikes, and workers unions.

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After the American Civil War, there was great economic and industrial growth which the Robber Barons used to their advantage and accumulated great wealth and power. Robber Barons were businessmen that created massive business organizations that were known as trusts. They weren’t robbers nor barens since they did not steal money, they earned it. On the other hand, while they did have great amounts of wealth and power, the ways that they achieved this were very unethical and horrible. They head little to no government control on the businesses, this caused them to have more power and resorted to ruthless business tactics such as not caring at all about their worker’s safety and working conditions and paying their workers minimum wage and often lowering wages as they saw fit. This caused a toll on many families and their children also had to work in order to have the bare minimum for living expenses. The most known Robber Barons are known as Cornelius Vanderbilt and J0hn D. Rockefeller. They never actually stole any money and started their business from scratch and they did not receive any special treatment to rise up the economic ladder. They also helped economic consumers and destroyed a monopoly.

Evidence to show this was a book called “Why Nations Fail” by MIT economics professor Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist and economist James A. Robinson. The book talks about that “Vanderbilt was one of the most notorious robber barons who aimed at consolidating monopolies and preventing any potential competitor from entering the market or doing business on an equal footing.” Even so, I agree more on the worker’s side, rather than the industrialists side because the businessmen and industrialists made living conditions harder for people in the working class. There was much overcrowding and it was very chaotic, but there were more reasons for this. Many immigrants had migrated to the US during this time because word got out of new job opportunities in southern and easter Europe. It was very usual for immigrants to move in a neighborhood with their same ethnicity and this cause to create ethnic neighborhoods, mainly in Chicago and New York. Though some people weren’t happy with all these new immigrants in America. These people were called navitists, these were people who are natives of America and wanted to protect their rights against the immigrants. Not only were they faced with these difficulties, with working conditions were very bad during this time not only for immigrants but for everyone who was in the working class. They worked cruel hours, 10-hour shifts, six days a week. Their wages were barely enough for them to support their families, adults were working hard and because of the jobs they had they were injured. The worst part was if the worker was injured or otherwise unable to work, they were just simply replaced. Eventually, though, workers realized that these were not great working conditions and created labor unions. Children weren’t off the hook either, child labor was something that greatly impacted the labor force. Since adults were having troubles taking care of their families, it was normal for children to also work, and their working conditions were brutal. They had to the extremely dangerous things that no child should be doing, they couldn’t even attend school because they had to work.

These readings and journals I read really made me see the world a bit different. I knew there used to be child labor and wages were different, but I had no idea how much this really impacted the economy and political views. Everything that happened this time made what America is today in so many ways. I feel lucky enough I’m able to go to school and not worry about how me and my family are going to eat. I also didn’t know how horrible working conditions were during the Gilded Age. I think my background and where I come from does change a lot my perspective from this, being a “double-minority” I think if I was to live during this time I would have a really hard time finding a job or making a name for myself. It all depends if I was to immigrate to America though. Similarities right now to the Gilded Age could be made with President Trump’s recently succeeded in restricting immigration from different Muslim countries. Also since his campaign, he’s been talking very badly about Mexicans and Central Americans demeaning them by labeling all of them as immigrants. Even though women were allowed to work during the Gilded Age and still can, they are still discriminated in the workplace today and sometimes paid less than men. Not only women but also other racial groups that are in the workforce are treated the same. A big difference between then and now is that America now is very open to the idea that men and women can work the same jobs that were once labeled as “masculine” or “feminine”.

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