The Myth of the Robber Barons
by Burton Folsom
The Industrial Age in America was a time of tremendous change. It was also, we are told, a period ruled by iron-fisted tycoons and tyrants of business, men who were intent on amassing personal fortunes at the expense of their employees and consumers. But historian Burt Folsom calls foul on this telling of American history. In The Myth of the Robber Barons, Folsom observes that the business entrepreneurs of the Industrial Age can be divided into two categories: those who succeeded by innovating, cutting costs and otherwise improving the lot of consumers and those whose “success” was largely attributable to government subsidies, actions that essentially stole money from consumers to benefit these so-called entrepreneurs. Folsom’s case studies show that the Robber Barons that we are taught to despise greatly benefitted the American consumer and economy, and that those who should have earned our scorn are those that sought government favors to line their own pockets.
Praise for The Myth of the Robber Barons
“Revises in important ways many misperceptions that historians have imposed upon the record. Though Folsom’s work is balanced, judicious history, addressed to the past…it has powerful relevance to current political discourse.” – Forrest McDonald, professor of history, University of Alabama
“Probably the best, most readable, entertaining and informative business history ever written.” – Lawrence Reed, President, The Foundation for Economic Education
“In spite of the easy reading of the text, the book has profound meaning for the nature of business in America, with implications for political philosophy and economic theory.” – Angus MacDonald, Book Reviews
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