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The Myth of the Robber Barons: A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America Paperback – 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0963020314 ISBN-10: 0963020315

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Young America's Foundation (1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0963020315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0963020314
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Revises in important ways many misperceptions that historians have imposed upon the record. Though Folsom's work is balanced, judicious history, addressed to the past...it has powerful relevance to current political discourse. --Forest McDonald, Professor of History, University of Alabama

The MYTH OF THE ROBBER BARONS is... excellent. . . . In short, this book is the perfect supplement to most standard economic and business history textbooks. this reviewer has adopted it already. --Larry Schweikart, THE HISTORIAN

I read this book in one sitting. In spite of the easy reading of the text, the book has profound meaning for the nature of business in America, with implications for political philosophy and economic theory. There isn't a businessman in the country who would not profit from the reading of this important book. --Angus MacDonald, BOOK REVIEWS

The MYTH OF THE ROBBER BARONS is... excellent. . . . In short, this book is the perfect supplement to most standard economic and business history textbooks. this reviewer has adopted it already. --Larry Schweikart, THE HISTORIAN

I read this book in one sitting. In spite of the easy reading of the text, the book has profound meaning for the nature of business in America, with implications for political philosophy and economic theory. There isn't a businessman in the country who would not profit from the reading of this important book. --Angus MacDonald, BOOK REVIEWS

The MYTH OF THE ROBBER BARONS is... excellent. . . . In short, this book is the perfect supplement to most standard economic and business history textbooks. this reviewer has adopted it already. --Larry Schweikart, THE HISTORIAN

I read this book in one sitting. In spite of the easy reading of the text, the book has profound meaning for the nature of business in America, with implications for political philosophy and economic theory. There isn't a businessman in the country who would not profit from the reading of this important book. --Angus MacDonald, BOOK REVIEWS

The MYTH OF THE ROBBER BARONS is... excellent. . . . In short, this book is the perfect supplement to most standard economic and business history textbooks. this reviewer has adopted it already. --Larry Schweikart, THE HISTORIAN

I read this book in one sitting. In spite of the easy reading of the text, the book has profound meaning for the nature of business in America, with implications for political philosophy and economic theory. There isn't a businessman in the country who would not profit from the reading of this important book. --Angus MacDonald, BOOK REVIEWS

The MYTH OF THE ROBBER BARONS is... excellent. . . . In short, this book is the perfect supplement to most standard economic and business history textbooks. this reviewer has adopted it already. --Larry Schweikart, THE HISTORIAN

I read this book in one sitting. In spite of the easy reading of the text, the book has profound meaning for the nature of business in America, with implications for political philosophy and economic theory. There isn't a businessman in the country who would not profit from the reading of this important book. --Angus MacDonald, BOOK REVIEWS

About the Author

Burton W. Folsom, Jr. is the Charles Kline professor of history and management at Hillsdale College in Michigan. He received his Ph. D. from the University of Pittsburgh, and has taught U. S. history at the University of Nebraska, the University of Pittsburgh, Murray State University, and Northwood University. He has also been a senior fellow at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan; and historian in residence at the Center for the American Idea in Houston, Texas. He has written articles for the WALL STREET JOURNAL, THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR, POLICY REVIEW, and HUMAN EVENTS. Professor Folsom's first book was Urban Capitalists. His later books include Empire Builders, No More Free Markets or Free Beer: The Progressive Era in Nebraska. He has two edited books, The Spirit of Freedom and The Industrial Revolution and Free Trade. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Southern History, Pacific Historical Review, Journal of American Studies, Great Plains Quarterly, The American Spectator, and The Wall Street Journal. He is a columnist on economic history for The Freeman for Ideas on Liberty.

More About the Author

Burton W. Folsom is a professor of history at Hillsdale College in Michigan and senior historian at the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is a regular columnist for The Freeman and has written articles for The Wall Street Journal and American Spectator, among other publications. He lives in Michigan.

Customer Reviews

A very easy read!!
Idelette D'Bures
The Myth of The Robber Barons by Burton W. Folsom, JR. tells a unique story about entrepreneurs in early America.
Reinhard Frommann
This book should be required reading in every high school.
Jason Runyan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

147 of 157 people found the following review helpful By Doug on May 11, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Burton Folsom's The Myth of the Robber Barons is a short, but excellent book that argues that the mislabeled "Robber Barons" of the 19th century became wealthy not because they robbed anyone but because they offered quality products/services at record low prices. These productive giants made their fortunes because so many Americans chose to do business with them.

There are several values to gain from this book. First, you will learn several inspiring stories about how great industrialists amassed their fortunes through ingenuity, extended dedication and taking great calculated risks. You will learn about how Cornelius Vanderbilt defeated the Fulton NY/NJ steamship-transport monopoly by offering lower rates, earning a reputation for his punctuality, investing in faster and larger ships and providing ancillary services such as concessions. You will also learn about how Andrew Carnegie was obsessed with cutting costs, which led to him profitably carting off tons of steel shavings discarded from a competing steel plant owned by the Scrantons. Other business heroes covered in depth in this book are James J. Hill (who built the Great Northern Railroad without a penny of Federal aid), oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, the Scranton steel family, Carnegie's right hand man Charles Schwab and Andrew Mellon, the Secretary of the Treasury whose laissez-faire policy recommendations allowed the 1920s to roar.

Another great value of this book is that it dispels a few common myths about capitalism. For one, Folsom correctly identifies that "Robber Barons" is an invalid concept. That is, "Robber Barons" includes market entrepreneurs (i.e., those who *created* their fortunes by revolutionizing an industry) with political entrepreneurs (i.e.
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66 of 74 people found the following review helpful By E. Husman on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
Folsom picks out six success stories - of Vanderbilt's success against government-chartered monopolies, of the Scranton's success in challenging English steel manufacturers, of J. J. Hill's victory over subsidized transcontinentals and subsequent undoing by anti-trust laws and rate regulation, of Rockefeller's nearly unknown struggle against foreign oil, of Charles Scwhabb's rise and fall as a steel manufacturer, and of Andrew Mellon's success as a taxcutting Treasury Secretary - and uses these to illustrate how historians lump economic entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs together, and fail to teach us the correct lessons. Economic entrepreneurs are those whose vision, energy, talent, and willingness to take risk increase the size of the pie for all, while political entrepreneurs are those who beg for public assistance, squander it, resort to graft and influence peddling, and bring the wrath of the public down upon their ears as well as upon the economic entrepreneurs. Usually, it is the economic entrepreneurs that take the worst beating. In his effort to show the positive contributions of these individuals, Folsom fails to answer or even tell some of the infamy associated with men such as Vanderbilt ... but then, one of the points that he makes is that mainstream history books are full of this type of innuendo and rumor.
The reviewers complaining about the oversights fail to appreciate Folsom's intended audience or purpose. He is specifically pointing out problems with history texts, not trying to write an unassailable, definitive history of each of these industries.
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116 of 140 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
Burton W. Folsom's "The Myth of the Robber Barons" is the ultimate apologist's essay on the early industrialists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In fact, the title of the book suggests that Folsom intends to overturn the negative verdict handed down by Matthew Josephson in his seminal piece "The Robber Barons" (1934), although the author spends no time directly refuting Josephson's claims.

Folsom's revisionist tone should not detract from the fact that the he lays out an extremely concise (134 pages) but compelling argument that traditional history texts have unfairly lumped all early industrialists together as market predators and sources of political corruption and social upheaval. Folsom's thesis consists of two central points: 1) overall the early industrial captains did more good than harm because their efficiency brought a wide range of high quality, low cost goods to the average American consumer for the first time; and 2) what harm they did cause was more often than not a direct result of well-intentioned but poorly conceived and executed government market intervention.

The first two chapters of this book on the development of the steamship and railroad industries, respectively, are far and away the most interesting and convincing. Folsom uses these two industries to introduce his conception of the "good" and "bad" entrepreneur. The former he labels "market entrepreneurs" who, he argues, succeed in business through technological innovation and production efficiency. The latter he calls "political entrepreneurs," which are marked by their use of governmental subsidies and protection that ultimately retards industrial development and keeps prices artificially high. Folsom presents Cornelius Vanderbilt and James J.
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