Economics/Class Relations

Robber Barons in the New Gilded Age

By Michael Lind, Tablet

Do Americans live today in a new Gilded Age, dominated by robber barons? It depends on what you mean by “gilded age” and “robber barons.” The real parallel to draw is between the generation that followed the Civil War and the present one. In both eras, the greatest problem hasn’t been big business as such, but rather a particular kind of big business—private infrastructure corporations that control chokepoints in the U.S. economy, like railroads in the first Gilded Age and online giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter in the second. The solution to the ills of our second Gilded Age is the same as the one for the first—not antitrust campaigns indiscriminately targeting all large and successful firms, but public regulation of a few essential commercial and social infrastructure firms.

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