The gilded era and the rise of the capitalist system school

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  • 1. The Gilded Era and the Rise of the Capitalist System 1. General themes of the era 1877-1900 a. Laissez faire economics- b. Concentration of power in the hands of the government at all levels. Included land policy, railroad subsidies, tax and tariffs, immigration and Indian policy i. Homestead Act-1862-passed during the war, would hasten settlement of the west and add free states, 160 acres of land to a family who would settle it for 5 years, land fell into the hands of speculators, most poor people did not have tools or resources for farming, eventually big farms replaced smaller farms- agribusiness ii. Transportation Revolution-railroads could reach where canals could not, ran year round, through mountains, tap markets throughout the country, 1840-3k miles, 1860, 30k miles of track iii. Pacific Railway Acts-1862, 1864-direct grants of land to build a transcontinental railroad, for every mile of track laid, the railroad corporation would get 12, 800 acres of public land to do with what they wanted, $48,000 for every mile laid through mountains, 30 year subsidized loan at below market interest rates iv. Lots of politicians who were implicated in scandals related to railroad building 2. The New Businessmen a. Captains of industry-ingenious and industrious, folk heroes, embodied the American dream b. Robber Barons-immoral, greedy, corrupt, shamelessly stole from the public coffers, made money off the backs of Americans 3. New Ways of Doing Business a. The corporation-concentration of power, interdependent with other companies, legally treated as an individual, investors only liable for their investment, joined with other corporations to create a trust 4. The social philosophy of American businessmen a. Businesses and the pursuit of happiness-eliminated competition b. Pursuit of Property-justified through Social Darwinism, the idea of a self-adjusting economy and laissez-faire, profit is the only human motive/self interest is socially benefit