Thursday, October 13, 2005

Damn the Producers

Edward Renehan at Tech Central has written a nice critique of Matthew Josephson's, Robber Barrons - the early 20th Century treatise that demonized the great American industrialists and ultimately laid the populous seed that begot two subsequent generations of Howard Zinn's and similar economic ignoramuses:

Josephson was at heart "a moralist who cared less about the accuracy of the story than about the ideological message he saw in it." In shaping his facts to backup his ideology, Josephson completely missed one elemental truth: The leading entrepreneurs of the Gilded Age were to the modern American economy what the founding fathers were to the Bill of Rights. These men built the infrastructure upon which the whole of their country's 20th century prosperity was based. The Carnegies, Goulds, Rockefellers and Morgans created -- and that is a key word here, created -- capacity and jobs, thus enabling the rise of that most radical and democratic of things: a strong, stable, educated middle class. By being visionaries and taking business risks that served their own ends, the Gilded Age industrialists generated new wealth not only for themselves, but for their emerging nation-state.

During the forty years that followed the Civil War, the United States amazed European investors and observers with the speed at which it morphed from a relatively backward agricultural republic to the most powerful industrial nation on the face of the planet. During the "robber baron" years, the United States outstripped other nations by far when it came to growth in per capita income, industrial production, and rising values generally. As well, the Gilded Age saw, for the first time, full economic participation by numerous previously disenfranchised constituencies. But one has a hard time gleaning these facts from Josephson's book, or from any of its numerous descendants.

Good stuff. Class warfare has always seemed to be less about justice and morality and more a vehicle to power for it appeals to the most base of human emotions: envy. Progressives (from Josephson and FDR to our very own Johnny Edwards) have thus exploited that emotion among the masses to persecute, slander and tax, tax, tax those evil rich guys. How dare you achieve?