Social Darwinism Essay Example

During a time period known as the Gilded Age in 1877 to 1910, the United States underwent through changes that had a major impact on their economy. This post-Civil War period demonstrated the rise of cities as large populations shifted from rural to urban areas in addition to the growth of industry, new inventions, and immigration. The manufacturing output increased in factories, railroads were expanding quickly from place to place, and a few companies grew and became more sophisticated. Although this time was described as golden, there were factors that were shielded by the achievements of the Gilded Age that caused it to be one of the worst ages for the general public. Successful industrialists utilized the strategies of monopoly in order to remove their competition, leaving them at an unfair disadvantage. The laborers from several different types of industries worked through terrible and unhealthy conditions while earning low pay for their strenuous contributions. A social construct about how various groups of people was fabricated, segregating the rich to be at the top and the others to be placed below them in the pyramid. The early American industrialists from the Gilded Age were robber barons because their methods for achieving greater wealth included the use of monopoly, competition to be destroyed, the poor treatment of workers, and the concept of Social Darwinism to be applied in that society.

Monopolies are the Effective Method of Business Control

The detrimental strategy that industrialists would have is to construct their business into a monopoly in order to eliminate their competition. In addition, monopolies were used to business owners' advantage because that allowed them to acquire more wealth and control different areas of the process while being able to take out their competitors. For example, Rockefeller used vertical monopoly so that the prices can be lower in order to buy out his rival companies and that method allowed him to take away the competition but he used a lot of violence and intimidation to scare them off. Document D displays an image that expresses Vanderbilt and Fisk jockeying to beat each other in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. Although Vanderbilt is considered to be a larger person than Fisk, anyone can win and anyone can be a rival no matter how small their company was. There will always be competition in a monopoly, even the railroad industry because there are no businesses that have no competition. Vanderbilt demonstrated characteristics of a robber baron by being motivated to beat Fisk and how his intention of building his parts of the Transcontinental Railroad was not based on constructing something that would benefit the country. There are viewpoints that show their behavior for competition is normal because that mindset will bring the best out in these "captains of industry" because they will make exceptional improvements to the community. To an extent, this belief is true but that does not mean that they would go to extremes in order to have what the want. In addition to that, robber barons have the tendency to want to have the control of things that would be to their advantage such as the government. Rockefeller exhibited his control of the government with his oil company because of his bribery to them (Doc E). At that point, Rockefeller viewed the government and the president as inferior because of his depiction of him as a giant holding the white house. Since he loaned money to these higher forms of power he not only took control of them but a part of the country as well and that control meant he had the power to do what he wanted.

It was obvious in a sense that workers and laborers were not treated with much respect and they were not paid well either. There were constant instances where they were forced to work more hours but their bosses would refuse to pay them more money. The depiction where workers from various industries are holding up the robber barons show the unfairness of the system (Doc A). While the workers are barely living on about $6 a day, the big robber barons are being fed the money to the point where they are bloated with cash. The rich are justified by the constant explanation of how it is better off being poor because they would not know how to use wealth correctly. Allowing the rich to get richer and the poor to stay below them allows companies to have workers because these laborers would always need money in order to make a living. These robber barons take advantage of this situation because those workers will always be holding them up and keeping their business and money flowing.

Why Social Darwinism Idea Was Successful

The idea of Social Darwinism was present in these American societies because different groups of people were stratified based on their race and economic status. During this time, rich white males were placed at the top of this pyramid while minorities were placed below them. Document A displays an image where the laborers are the pillars of industries because they are working in order to feed the large industrialists with more money, which is why the rich are being held high by them. These robber barons have an immense amount of wealth to the extent of gluttony whereas the workers makes less than ten dollars while working in order take care of their families. This distinct difference between the salaries of the workers and the rich demonstrated the unequal distribution of wealth amongst the community and how it was unfair for the laborers to make only a tiny portion of what their bosses were receiving. Andrew Carnegie justified this inequality by stating, "While the law (of competition) may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department." (Doc B) and the main reasoning was to display that this situation was the best for the development. The inclusion of the word "race" in the evidence referred to white men due to the fact that Carnegie believed they were the ones that were capable of wealth and that it was better that way. That piece excluded not only the poor but minority groups as well and how they were incompetent to acquire money because white males were stratified at the top of the pyramid. In another sense, another point that Carnegie made was, "the man of wealth thus becoming the mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves." (Doc C). There are different perspectives in which these early American industrialists were seen as captains of industry due to the fact that they have had more experience and wisdom to understand how the wealth should be given out to improve their community such as fund churches, schools, or universities. However, this certain viewpoint condones the behavior of the robber barons to treat the poor and minority groups like animals because they are unfit to have that certain money. Furthermore, by stating that the wealth should be entrusted with the rich does not acknowledge the many disadvantages behind the statement and that includes how the majority treats the poor like animals that could not take care of themselves.

The Negative Outcome of Social Darwinism

Social Darwinism related to how the wealthy were believed to be capable of handling money as well as the organization of these various groups on the social pyramid that displayed how successful they would be in a society based on their race and wealth.

Despite the accomplishments of the Gilded Age, the means of reaching them were unfair to competition of businesses, factory workers, and other distinct groups of people. These early American industrialists are robber barons because of their strategies of monopoly in order to destroy competition, their atrocious treatment of workers from their companies, and the effect they had on minorities and the poor. If they were to be labeled as captains of industry instead, then these industrialists should not have had these issues with others and their high position would promote more positive aspects such as equality in wealth distribution and business strategies that did not involve the use of a monopoly.


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