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"Robber Barons"-discussion in history class

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fegeldolfy Posted: Mon, Jan 14 2013 6:01 PM

So,today in my U.S. history class we discussed the "robber barons".

It went basically like this:

After the Civil War, entrepreneurs like Rockefeller and Carnegie emerged, along with big corporations. Unfortunately, there was little to no regulation (or Congress was in the back pocket of these men), so the corporations would treat the workers badly and get a monopoly. Thankfully,labor unions emerged, and Congress banned trusts, thereby stopping anyone from getting a monopoly. However, today companies use "interlocking" to basically get a trust.

Companies got a monopoly by using predatory pricing-they would lower their price to drive out competition, and then raise it to hurt consumers and make more money.

Now the only stuff I've really read on this are the sections in How Capitalism Saved America and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.

As far as I can tell, the basic austrian critique is this:

1.You must distinguish between market entrepreneurs,like Vanderbilt,Hill,or Rockefeller, and political entrepreneurs, like, well,I don't know.

2."Predatory pricing" is largely a myth. A company could indeed drive out competition by lowering prices, but when it started to raise prices, competition would reemerge. 

3.By the time Standard Oil was broken up, it was losing market share.

4.Standard Oil was not broken up because of benevolent politicians, but because of jealous competitors.

5.Workers were not treated badly out of malevolence from the corporations,but because there was a lack of capital there were simply not enough resources,or something.

In addition to that, we talked about "income inequality" and how "median household income" (or something like that) has been going down for the bottom 20 % and up for the top 5 % since 1969. As far as I understand it, the fallacy in this kind of thinking is thinking that the same people are in the groups. A lot of people who were in the bottom 20 % in the 1970s were in the top 20 % by the 1990s.

 

Anything else? Tomorrow we're discussing what it was like for workers, and on Wednesday we're discussing labor unions.

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It sounds government intervention was the problem in the first place.

Hey, what do you know? Government intervention was also the solution, too.

no

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Wheylous replied on Mon, Jan 14 2013 6:17 PM

Look up essentially anything by me on this forum with the word "Guilded Age" in it.

Here is a good list of stuff to read:

http://candlemind.com/projects/progclub/file/michael/histmon.php

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z1235 replied on Mon, Jan 14 2013 6:19 PM

I think you are good to go. Few comments:

On #1: The same person could be a market entrepreneur then turn into a political one as he tries to fend off competition. 

On #2: Ask him to provide a SINGLE example for prices skyrocketing back up after an alledged "predatory pricer" has eliminated competition. 

On #5: There is no "or something". People worked harder in spaces without A/C simply because the level of productivity was lower than it is today. 

On income inequality: Ask him how much income inequality is too much and according to what standard? Why is income equality good in and of itself and for whom?

Is this a classroom from the former USSR? smiley

 

 

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I think you are good to go. Few comments:

On #1: The same person could be a market entrepreneur then turn into a political one as he tries to fend off competition. 

On #2: Ask him to provide a SINGLE example for prices skyrocketing back up after an alledged "predatory pricer" has eliminated competition. 

On #5: There is no "or something". People worked harder in spaces without A/C simply because the level of productivity was lower than it is today. 

On income inequality: Ask him how much income inequality is too much and according to what standard? Why is income equality good in and of itself and for whom?

Is this a classroom from the former USSR? smiley

 

1.That's a good point. I guess Rockefeller would be an example of that, considering he was involved in the making of the Fed.

It's not from the former USSR, but it's your average statist crap. It's getting harder and harder to deal with. I swear I might go insane when we learn about the New Deal.

Also,John James,thanks for the links.

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If you're looking for a good resource on the reality of the robber barons, get a copy of John T. Flynn's Men of Wealth.

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yes

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rockefeller saved the whales ^_^

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Jan 15 2013 9:41 AM

Kelvin, there was some article that came out in the past year which disputed that.

Found it:

http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/30287.aspx

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update:

today we discussed the workers, and how horrible it was for them.

also,my teacher decided to emphasize the typical social democratic views that:

*Rich people hate paying taxes because they don't want poor people to have healthcare.

*Obama wants rich people to pay their "fair share" so that he can implement wonderful social programs!

*All rich people are Republicans, all middle/lower class people are Democrats.

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z1235 replied on Tue, Jan 15 2013 8:42 PM

And someone is paying this guy to "teach"?

 

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It's a woman,actually. What can I say though,it's public school in Seattle,WA, second only to San Francisco for being lefty la la land.
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It was pretty funny when the whole "republicans love the rich" thing happened,though:

Teacher: "And you see rich people back then did a lot of philanthophy, but it wasn't out of good will for their fellow man. Does anyone know why they did it?"

Other student:"Isn't it because they could pay like 30 % less income tax or something?"

Teacher:"Right, and because of that, in this era, the government didn't have much money-"

Me,under my breath:"Fuck yeah!"

*teacher looks at me while continuing*

"-sort of like today, and you know Obama is trying to raise taxes on the rich so they can pay their fair share,and people can get healthcare but Republicans are protectors of the rich, and they were back then too."

 

I'm pretty sure my teacher doesn't like me, especially after I trashed Lincoln and said the South had the right to secede in my essay on the "Civil War".

The classroom,however,is really bad. At the back there are 15 or so pictures of various presidents,prime ministers,etc. with some word document thing that says "World Leaders", on the wall there's a U.N. flag, and everyone in my class is a major social democrat.

Except for me and one other kid, who today talked about the Fed and fake money and how we were on a gold standard back then. He's a Ron Paul fan, though I'm not sure if he's read Rothbard/Mises/Hayek,etc.

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Everyday you should object to that drivel. You may get others to stop and think. Break the vicious cycle of government propagandizing!

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Print out these charts and bring them to class.  Say to your teacher: "I always hear about how the rich need to pay their 'fair share'...what exactly would a 'fair share' be?"

Make sure you get an answer.  You might even add: "Doesn't 'fair share' imply 'equality under the law'?  You mean everyone should pay the same amount?  Or the same percentage?"

Again, get an answer.  Push her for an exact definition of "fair share".  A number would be nice.  Like, say, percent share of the total taxes paid.  I guarantee whatever she says will be lower than what it really is, currently.

Once you get an answer, you can break out these charts.

Share of total Federal Tax Liabilities

Share of Individual Income Tax Liabilities

 

And make sure you catch the part highlighted here.

 

Man what I would give to be back in school for a day or two.  I can't imagine how much fun I would have.

 

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z1235 replied on Tue, Jan 15 2013 10:06 PM

JJ, they are obviously not paying their "fair share" because there still exist people (poor, hungry, sick) that need moar. We need Obama to both (1) stop the rich from exploiting everyone else, and (2) to the extent that he fails at (1) (as would be evidenced by the very existence of haves and have-nots) to correct said mistake by making the rich pay the fruits of their exploitation BACK to the exploited. Duh!

 

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John James replied on Tue, Jan 15 2013 10:31 PM

I know you're just playing around, but honestly, the fact that there still exist poor people can't have anything to do with "fair share" even by socialist standards.  And I can guarantee with most of them, you can prove it ...simply by getting them to give a definition of "fair share" before hand, and then present them with the facts that they are so blissfully unaware of...

Just like Stossel does with Al Sharpton at 3:50:

 

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Wheylous replied on Wed, Jan 16 2013 10:41 AM

fegeldolfy - that makes me rage so hard.

Let's all ignore George Soros or Warren Buffet.

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Fegeldofy, go pick up The Myth of the Robber Barons.  It's a pretty rudimentary history book, but it sounds like it would blow your class out of the water.  Just don't stop after reading it if you want to argue the issue on a higher level.

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"Fair share" is nothing more than a phrase that enables politicians to utilize emotionally driven arguments that make people feel like they've somehow been wronged simply because "the rich" make more money than them.

There's no argument that legitimizes an arbitrary number, whether progressive or flat, to be the "fair" tax rate...except for

"SOCIAL CONTRACT LOLL!!!!"

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Update: Today we discussed labor unions. The basic consensus was:

*Unions are selfless and care about workers, and without them we'd still be working in coal mines.

*Unions can raise wages (obviously no one in that class has read Hazlitt)

*Only "evil right wingers" hate unions.

*Businessmen are bad because they only care about profits, so, you know "profits over people" 

We got a handout of documents of contemporary (19th century) views on unions that were mostly negative, and a question that says "Why did the American public dislike labor unions?" I like how they try to present it as "well Americans were being tricked by evil big businessmen, and they didn't realize how great labor unions are,but now we know better".

Print out these charts and bring them to class.  Say to your teacher: "I always hear about how the rich need to pay their 'fair share'...what exactly would a 'fair share' be?"

Make sure you get an answer.  You might even add: "Doesn't 'fair share' imply 'equality under the law'?  You mean everyone should pay the same amount?  Or the same percentage?"

Again, get an answer.  Push her for an exact definition of "fair share".  A number would be nice.  Like, say, percent share of the total taxes paid.  I guarantee whatever she says will be lower than what it really is, currently.

Once you get an answer, you can break out these charts.

Share of total Federal Tax Liabilities

Share of Individual Income Tax Liabilities

 

And make sure you catch the part highlighted here.

 

Man what I would give to be back in school for a day or two.  I can't imagine how much fun I would have.

I don't want to be "that guy", the person who's always debating the teacher, especially since that's not really the style of teaching that goes on there. I tend to present my alternative views in essays we sometimes write on Fridays. For example, when we were wrapping up the founding period, my teacher let us pick a conflict between two FFs and defend one of them. So I picked Jefferson vs. Hamilton with the bank and defended Jefferson's view, whereas the book implied that Hamilton was right. Same thing with the Civil War, I refuted all the arguments against secession that my teacher spent a day teaching to us.

So I'll print out those charts and use them in my essay I'm writing on Friday if I feel like they'll help. I don't know what it's going to be about, since we don't get to know until the day we write it (the idea is that it's "spontaneous"),but I assume it's something like "Were Rockefeller/Carnegie/Vanderbilt captains of industry or robber barons?" or "What was life like for workers?" or "Discuss the importance of labor unions."

Fegeldofy, go pick up The Myth of the Robber Barons.  It's a pretty rudimentary history book, but it sounds like it would blow your class out of the water.  Just don't stop after reading it if you want to argue the issue on a higher level.

I've actually got that book on my kindle, and I started reading it like two months ago. I remember I got about halfway through the chapter on the Scrantons when I put it down, I think it was because I wanted to read Murphy's Lessons for the Young Economist. I remember Fulsom's book being really good.

This is slightly off topic but I figure I may as well ask it here:Has anyone read Fulsom's book about FDR, I think it's called New Deal or Raw Deal, and if so,do you recommend it?

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fegeldolfy:
I don't want to be "that guy",

Yeah I recently commented on this myself here.  But I figure in high school it can't affect you too much, and the psychic rewards I would get seem just too tempting.

 

I assume it's something like "Were Rockefeller/Carnegie/Vanderbilt captains of industry or robber barons?" or "What was life like for workers?" or "Discuss the importance of labor unions."

For some quick reference, be sure to check the above linked Applying Economics to American History | Thomas E. Woods , Jr.

Also How Capitalism Saved America is quite appropriate.  Be sure to check the links there.

 

This is slightly off topic but I figure I may as well ask it here:Has anyone read Fulsom's book about FDR, I think it's called New Deal or Raw Deal, and if so,do you recommend it?

I haven't read it yet but I recall Tom Woods hosting the Peter Schiff Show or in lecture, and speaking pretty highly of it, as well as Folsom in general.  See other titles here (including another on FDR)

 

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Guys guys...

I think we are all getting worked up about this...
Seriously is a public school what do you expect? Its not dick dont take it so hard. Just tell the teacher you disagree with her views and then move on.

What you should do is talk about how obama is such a great leader blah blah blah, and then get the A grade, get out, never see that stupid teacher again.

 

 

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Elric replied on Wed, Jan 16 2013 10:59 PM

You believe getting an A in high school is more valuable than showing others that the official story is untrue or has reasonable objections?

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Because his classmates dont really care, so he is just wasting his effort.

Im just speaking from experience here...

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
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Elric replied on Wed, Jan 16 2013 11:24 PM

Okay, I get it, you know his classmates. Even though I was a statist in high school, I liked it when somebody argued against what we were forced to learn and tried to make the teacher defend their position. While it made the regular school room drudgery a little more interesting for me, maybe others didn't see it the same way.

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HabbaBabba replied on Wed, Jan 16 2013 11:38 PM

Man, I didn't know any libertarians in HS, or even that they existed. As soon as the idea was presented to me, years later, I ate it up. Make a ruckus.

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fegeldolfy replied on Wed, Jan 16 2013 11:41 PM

Okay, I get it, you know his classmates. Even though I was a statist in high school, I liked it when somebody argued against what we were forced to learn and tried to make the teacher defend their position. While it made the regular school room drudgery a little more interesting for me, maybe others didn't see it the same way.

I don't really speak up in class;I'm not that good at articulating things.

I think tomorrow we're playing some I.C.C simulation game or something.

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If you must absolutely must counter something against the teacher, try to not be too antagonistic (happened to me, now im "that kid" in class), just do like:

teacher: boom and bust cycle is the cause of capitalism

you: oh, why is capitalism the cause for the business cycle, blah,blah blah

something like that.

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
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fegeldolfy replied on Thu, Jan 17 2013 12:08 AM

If you must absolutely must counter something against the teacher, try to not be too antagonistic (happened to me, now im "that kid" in class), just do like:

teacher: boom and bust cycle is the cause of capitalism

you: oh, why is capitalism the cause for the business cycle, blah,blah blah

something like that.

Yeah,in my paper I'm not gonna talk about the federal reserve or stuff like that because then my teacher'll think I'm a conspiracy theorist. I'll just defend the "robber barons" and point out the flaws in unions and how peoples lives really got better back then.

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fegeldolfy:
Yeah,in my paper I'm not gonna talk about the federal reserve or stuff like that because then my teacher'll think I'm a conspiracy theorist. I'll just defend the "robber barons" and point out the flaws in unions and how peoples lives really got better back then.

Conspiracy theorist?  I promise you there is virtually no one who denies the Federal Reserve exists, nor that it is a central bank of the entire country.  There's not much of a conspiracy there.  If you're referring to the Fed being the main catalyst and driver of the Great Depression, I mean, even that's not an Alex Jones crackpot.  Hell Milton Friedman became a Nobel Laureate largely for his Monetary History of the United States work, in which he put forth that very notion back in the 60s.  Murray Rothbard was a credentialed economist who argued the Fed was essentially the cause of the GD.  Mises and Hayek (another Nobel Laureate) were arguing largely the same thing...to some degree even before it happened.

Even the current chairman of the Federal Reserve (Harvard and MIT alum, and Princeton department chairman and author of multiple economics text books, and former Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers) openly stated the bank caused the Great Depression.

Yeah.  Total conspiracy nutball crackpot notion right there if I ever saw one.

 

ShaneDK: What Caused the Great Depression ?

 

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No no no, I mean the whole "Fed was created by Morgan bankers or whatever thing". I'll definitely talk about it in my paper on the Great Depression.

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h.k. replied on Thu, Jan 17 2013 3:51 AM

John James:

fegeldolfy:
Yeah,in my paper I'm not gonna talk about the federal reserve or stuff like that because then my teacher'll think I'm a conspiracy theorist. I'll just defend the "robber barons" and point out the flaws in unions and how peoples lives really got better back then.

Conspiracy theorist?  I promise you there is virtually no one who denies the Federal Reserve exists, nor that it is a central bank of the entire country.  There's not much of a conspiracy there.  If you're referring to the Fed being the main catalyst and driver of the Great Depression, I mean, even that's not an Alex Jones crackpot.  Hell Milton Friedman became a Nobel Laureate largely for his Monetary History of the United States work, in which he put forth that very notion back in the 60s.  Murray Rothbard was a credentialed economist who argued the Fed was essentially the cause of the GD.  Mises and Hayek (another Nobel Laureate) were arguing largely the same thing...to some degree even before it happened.

Even the current chairman of the Federal Reserve (Harvard and MIT alum, and Princeton department chairman and author of multiple economics text books, and former Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers) openly stated the bank caused the Great Depression.

Yeah.  Total conspiracy nutball crackpot notion right there if I ever saw one.

 

ShaneDK: What Caused the Great Depression ?

 

 

 

That's still misleading, the reason why the Fed caused the GD to those statist economists, is because it didn't act socialist enough. So I don't think that's the best reasoning.

Friedman is pretty bad on the subject, even a mediocre economist like Hayek has a better comprehension of the business cycle, and he's a Nobel Laureate as well.

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h.k.:
That's still misleading, the reason why the Fed caused the GD to those statist economists, is because it didn't act socialist enough.

I'm sorry...Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Murray Rothbard were "statist economists"?  That's a new one.

 

So I don't think that's the best reasoning.

The reasoning makes no difference.  They all agree the Federal Reserve is responsible.  Which makes it even less of a "conspiracy".  (But that doesn't even matter, as fegeldolfy said that's not what he was talking about.)

 

even a mediocre economist like Hayek

Nice.

 

he's a Nobel Laureate as well.

I said that.

?

 

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fegeldolfy:
No no no, I mean the whole "Fed was created by Morgan bankers or whatever thing". I'll definitely talk about it in my paper on the Great Depression.

Well, I can see why that would kind of be outside the scope of any paper you might write in this high school class, but that fact is actually pretty well documented too.  See here, in particular Griffin's The Creature from Jekyll Island.

 

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Well, I can see why that would kind of be outside the scope of any paper you might write in this high school class, but that fact is actually pretty well documented too.  See here, in particular Griffin's The Creature from Jekyll Island.

Yeah my textbook says that the Fed was created after the Panic of 1907 by benevolent bankers like J.P. Morgan to "stabilize credit". I just think it would be difficult to write a paper along the lines of "Ok,they were bad,but not for the reasons you think, and the reasons you think they're bad are false". I only get 30 minutes to write it; I'm planning on mainly including a revisionist account of the gilded age and a general critique of unions.

 

Anyways,update:

This was me inside all during class today:

Seriously,it sucked. Get a load of these gems:

"There was no minimum wage"

"Capitalists were exploiting workers"

"Rich people only care about money"

"The government had to act"

"Regulation,yay!"

Our study question was "Without unions or government,who would control the unabashed wealth of the robber barons?";my answer was "Why does it need to be controlled?"

We also had a discussion of how to "protect the workers" and "help the economy grow". I had a pretty funny conversation though:

Person-We should put high tariffs on goods to protect American businesses and stop corporations from shipping jobs overseas.

Me-Why not take it a step further? Why not have Ohio put tariffs on goods from all the other states? Why not have Virginia stop businesses from moving jobs to Illinois? In fact,why stop there? Why not have Seattle put tariffs on goods from Tacoma? Why not have Ballard put tariffs on goods from Fremont? Why not have 15th street put tariffs on goods from 14th street? In fact,why not have every person,everywhere,be completely self sufficient?

Person-That's not what I meant. 

 

 

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Also,my teacher once again put forward the whole "Rich people don't care about anyone. They only donate to charity to avoid paying more taxes."

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Say "so what" the next time she says that. "Who cares if they don't care about anyone. That's none of your damn business."

Also, ask her why she doesn't pay more in taxes. After all, nothing is stopping her from donating beyond her "legal" tax burden.

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