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The Rich People of the Gilded Age and the Social Consequences of Their Wealth

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From the readings, we are taken through the different opinions on the characterizations of rich people and the social consequences of their wealth by three well-known contributors during this time. Henry Lloyd, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry George all had very contrasting point of views on this particular topic. Through these readings, we are taught the distinct belief that each of these men had about the issues during this specific time period: the Gilded Age.

Henry Lloyd, a muckraking journalist, argued that the Gilded Age had more to do with the greed of the higher-class people than of the hard work and perseverance they claimed to have. He believed that “...never in this happy country or anywhere else has there ever been enough of anything for all of the people”. In the excerpt, he explained that the widespread of people have never been able to buy much of anything; including the necessities of life, whereas the minorities have too much of everything. In addition to this, Lloyd explains, “Never since time began have all the sons and daughters of men been all warm, all filled, and all shod and roofed” … “They assert their right, for their private profit, to regulate the consumption by the people of the necessities of life, and to control production, not by needs of humanity, but by the desires of a few...”. Lloyd viewed the people who were in the higher-class minority as barbarians; the people who had plenty of what they wanted and what they needed but kept taking more. There were a great number of people without food, shelter, and the basic necessities of life, but the minorities didn’t care. He classified them as barbarians, simply because that was how they were acting. The laws that were passed didn’t control the monopolies because the people behind them were also gaining from it. Lloyd discussed that the wealthy people were very selfish; they believed because they had all the riches and goods, that they were better than the rest. The rich didn’t want commonwealth amongst the people because there would then be no divide between social classes.

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The critics of the Gilded Age argued that the concentration of wealth in the bank accounts of the rich robbed workers of fair compensation and gave the rich too much power. On the contrary to what the critics and Henry Lloyd believed, Andrew Carnegie had a vastly different opinion. Andrew Carnegie, one of the nation’s leading industrialists and one of the richest Americans of this era, defended the concentration of wealth. He believed that the wealthy knew best how to use their riches for the public benefit. Carnegie explained he thought he offered the “true solution” to this renowned problem of the rich versus the poor. He believed that it was better for a few to have a large sum of wealth rather than to have it spread throughout all the people. He proceeds to write, “… in which the surplus of wealth of the few will become, in the best sense, the property of many, because administered for the common good; and this wealth, passing through the hands of a few, can be a made much more potent force for the elevation of our race than if distributed in small sums to the people themselves”. Carnegie goes on to explain, “This, then, is held to be the duty of man of wealth: To set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him… The man of wealth thus becoming the mere trustee for his poor 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…”. Altogether, Carnegie believed individualism would continue, but sought that the millionaire would be a trustee for the poor.

Along with the beliefs of, Henry Lloyd and Andrew Carnegie, Henry George also has his fair share of beliefs about the economic inequality of the Gilded Age. Generally, George believed that poverty was neither inevitable nor natural; He spoke widely about his ideas that poverty stemmed from the concentration of wealth in the land. As well as this, he also explained how he thought poverty is considered a crime. “But while a man who chooses to be poor cannot be charged with a crime, it is certainly a crime to force poverty on others. And it seems to me clear that the great majority of those who suffer from poverty are poor not from their own particular faults, but because of conditions imposed by society at large. Therefore, I hold that poverty is a crime – not an individual crime, but a social crime, a crime which we all, poor as well as rich, are responsible…”. Henry George continues to express his thoughts that poverty is of existence because of our own injustice, selfishness, and ignorance. He explains that throughout the world there is apparent “over-production” of goods, but how can there be an over-production when not everyone has enough? It is simply the result of unjust distribution. George discusses his next opinion about this issue-filled-era by explaining that the people’s treatment of land is the root of all causes. He believes that it is unjust for man to take land and sell it to make profit; He continues that the land has been here far before us humans, so who gets to decide who it belongs to? What gives human the right to divide one another and take what was not originally ours to own? Lastly, Henry George goes on to express his idea that it is necessary to divide up the income that comes from the land; “...In that way we can secure absolute equality.”.

To conclude, during the time of the Gilded Age, there were a wide variety of opinions discussing the characterizations of the rich people and the social consequences of their wealth. Henry Lloyd, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry George all had very contrasting point of views on this particular topic. Through the readings in the textbook, we learned the distinct beliefs that each of these men had about the issues during this specific time period.

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The Rich People of the Gilded Age and the Social Consequences of Their Wealth. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
“The Rich People of the Gilded Age and the Social Consequences of Their Wealth.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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