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History is replete with a number of terms and concepts that are considered obsolete. Included among these are ideas and concepts such as mercantilism and barter. While it is not to say that these terms are not important to an understanding of past or present history, what it is meant to imply is that as social and economic discourse has changed, so to have the processes that shape it. As such, some terms have fallen out of use and are only utilized in the context of understanding the past.
Robber Baron and Economic Policy
Interestingly, the aforementioned argument once included the term "robber baron." A concept that was used to describe those individuals who, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, began exploiting capitalism for the accumulation of unprecedented wealth, fell out of fashion as the government worked quickly to control the limits of what capitalism and the individual could produce. As a result, the term robber baron became part of a ubiquitous past that simply reflected where the nation had been and how current economic policy came into existence. However, as the economy of the late twentieth century again began to change from the industrial to the technological, the term robber baron once again came to the forefront of economic and social discourse.
Some men that were considered to be "robber barons" include:
- Andrew Carnegie
- Henry Flagler
- J. P. Morgan
- Henry Ford
- John D. Rockefeller
- Cornelius Vanderbilt
- Edward Henry Harriman
Given the fact that significant changes in the economy have produced modern-day robber barons, this investigation seeks to look at the past to derive some understanding of the economic and social impact that robber barons had. Once this information is acquired, it will be possible to look at modern day robber barons and make some assessment about the changes that these individual have promulgated for society. In short, have their contributions on the whole, been a boon for society? Or have robber barons, both past and present, promulgated more harm than good? Attempting to answer the preceding questions, it is clear that a more cohesive understanding of past robber barons and their impact on society is first warranted.