Industrialization and Captains of Industry Questions and Answers

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Were the robber barons good or bad?

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Objectively speaking (in terms of economic stability, democracy, and distribution of wealth), the robber barons were bad. Also, some of what they did was morally reprehensible.

The robber barons were owners of big industry or real estate in the late-nineteenth century who engaged in predatory business practices and used their money to corrupt politicians and amass huge fortunes. While they helped make the United States a very wealthy country—alongside all the people who actually did the bulk of the work—they took a hugely disproportionate amount of the profit and used illegal means to crush union efforts, even to the point of killing union leaders and participants. Families like the Astors, who owned real estate, made huge amounts of money in Manhattan by charging high rents on unspeakably dark, overcrowded, unhealthy, rat-infested tenement apartments, while they themselves lived in wealth and splendor. By the end of the nineteenth century, people were questioning how a few families...

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