My thoughts: Chapter 11, entitled "Robber Barons and Rebels," focuses on industrialization, the corresponding shifts in populations, and the rise of workers rights. On a personal note, there is something guilt-inducing about reading about the rise of the workers rights movement while on a blissful nine-day paid staycation.
Here are my favorite tidbits and trivia from this (long) chapter:
- I'm oddly fascinated by population shifts: "Between 1860 and 1914, New York grew from 850,000 to 4 million, Chicago from 110,000 to 2 million, Philadelphia from 650,000 to 11⁄2 million."
- A nice summation of this chapter (and book as a whole): "And so it went, in industry after industry—shrewd, efficient businessmen building empires, choking out competition, maintaining high prices, keeping wages low, using government subsidies."
- The Supreme Court was frightening: In 1886 alone, "the Court did away with 230 state laws that had been passed to regulate corporations."
- There were people paying attention and making sense, like Henry George: "His book Progress and Poverty argued that the basis of wealth was land, that this was becoming monopolized, and that a single tax on land, abolishing all others, would bring enough revenue to solve the problem of poverty and equalize wealth in the nation."
- "It was a time when revolutionary organizations existed in major American cities, and revolutionary talk was in the air." I have trouble imagining what that would look like today.
- A dirty truth about immigration: "There were 51⁄2 million immigrants in the 1880s, 4 million in the 1890s, creating a labor surplus that kept wages down. The immigrants were more controllable, more helpless than native workers; they were culturally displaced, at odds with one another, therefore useful as strike-breakers."
- "The year 1893 saw the biggest economic crisis in the country’s history. After several decades of wild industrial growth, financial manipulation, uncontrolled speculation and profiteering, it all collapsed: 642 banks failed and 16,000 businesses closed down. Out of the labor force of 15 million, 3 million were unemployed."
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