Sheldon Richman On the Gilded Age's Managed Economy


That late 19th Century is depicted, by both friends and foes of the free market, as an era of laissez-faire market freedom. But Sheldon Richman shows that Gilded Age was a period of vast government interference in the private markets. "We discover that the fortunes realized by our manufacturers are no longer solely the reward of sturdy industry and enlightened foresight, but that they result from the discriminating favor of the Government and are largely built upon undue exactions from the masses of our people," one critic said. "As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters." And the critic wasn't just some anarchist kook.