Are Cornelius Vanderbilt and Andrew Carnegie Robber Barons?

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While some debate the use of the term, both Cornelius Vanderbilt and Andrew Carnegie are prime examples of people labeled robber barons. Like other very wealthy and powerful businessmen in later 19th century U.S. society, they used their economic dominance and control of important industries in ways that many observers...

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While some debate the use of the term, both Cornelius Vanderbilt and Andrew Carnegie are prime examples of people labeled robber barons. Like other very wealthy and powerful businessmen in later 19th century U.S. society, they used their economic dominance and control of important industries in ways that many observers considered unethical and contrary to the principles of U.S. democracy. To some eyes, they behaved more like rampaging medieval warrior barons than good down-to-earth American patriots. They set up monopolies, employed unfair competitive practices to crush their business rivals, bought political influence to protect their interests, and lived in multiple palatial homes while badly underpaying their workers. They were often depicted as greedy and ruthless in their pursuit of profit at all costs. 

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