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The Myth of the Robber Barons

A Synopsis of the Myth of the Robber Barons.


Introduction. 1

Evaluation of the Author’s Philosophy. 3

Philosophical Relevance to Today’s Business-Government Relationship. 4

Conclusion. 5


The Book Myth of the Robber Barons talks about entrepreneurship in the early days in America. It shows how the giants in the corporate world today are behind the success of America. The author of this book talks about two types of entrepreneurs: the market entrepreneur and the political entrepreneur. He further explains that each category cannot fit correctly in its own bracket, but rather, both of them interrelate with each other to form a perfect fit that is at the center of the continuum. 


The author continues to explain the differences that are portrayed by the two types of entrepreneurs. Political entrepreneurs fall under what he calls the “classic robber barons” mold. In another way, it means that political entrepreneurs are corrupt in their business deals and very wasteful with money. The reason behind this wastefulness is because they receive their aid from the government. This kind of entrepreneurs have low-quality products. Their primary concern is to get money as fast as possible. They bribe competitors and other politicians to reach their goals in business. Although the way political entrepreneurs conducted business was not honest, the author believes they somehow assisted in the growth of America.

The author, however, contrasts market entrepreneurs from political entrepreneurs. He claims that this kind of entrepreneurs should not be called classic robber barons at all. The market entrepreneurs are the real pillars of the growth of the nation. They took risks and produced high-quality goods. They did not take or receive bribes. They had no donations from the government. He believes that market entrepreneurs were charitable people. They assisted the needy through donations. They built facilities such as hospitals and libraries to support the community. Their transportation fees on ships were cheaper than those of political entrepreneurs.

 One of the market entrepreneurs he mentions donated over five hundred thousand million dollars to charity and funded scientific researches for yellow fever cure. He cites another instance of the market entrepreneurs, about a letter written by Rockefeller to his business partner, reminding him that they refined oil for the poor man, and so it was important to produce quality and affordable products. These stories that Folsom tells in the book portray most market entrepreneurs as good-hearted people.  

When it comes to the question of who build America into the superpower that it is today, Folsom believes that the market entrepreneurs played the biggest role. Political entrepreneurs, on the other hand, appear to be greedy and self-centered. Market entrepreneurs built great dynasties that benefited the poor people of America. These dynasties contributed to the growth of the American economy.

Moreover, Folsom criticizes historians’ view of businesspeople, claiming that they have misconceptions about them. Many historians say that business people cut costs in their deals during entrepreneurialactivities and contributed to charity with a portion of the money. However, it is not the case for every entrepreneur. The reason behind the misconception is that the historians fail to recognize the two types of entrepreneurs that the author presents, and instead they generalize them as one category. In so doing, faults of political entrepreneurs overshadows the good deeds of market entrepreneurs

Evaluation of the Author’s Philosophy

A critical assessment of this book points to some truth in what the author wrote. It is true that the market entrepreneurs and the political entrepreneurs both played a role in the growth of America’s economy. Political entrepreneurs maybe corrupt, greedy and self-centered as the author portrays them, but it is incorrect to put all of them in the same bracket. There is a possibility that a minority conducted clean and honest business deals. They made good quality products and did not take or give bribes to politicians and their competitors. Just like there are good politicians in our nation, there similarly existed good political entrepreneurs in the early days of America.


The same evaluation can be made regarding market entrepreneurs. A minority in this group of entrepreneurs might haveconducted corrupt business deals. It is true that market entrepreneurs do not receive funding for their businesses from the government. However, the minority might have been receivingitthrough other means such as inheritance and corruption.

Another evaluation to make in this book is in regards to the issue of federal intervention. Folsom believes that having donations in business can increase costs and encourage political corruption among entrepreneurs. Having federal interventions inform of subsidies affected the quality of goods produced by these entrepreneurs. These federal subsidies had a negative effect on the poor man through the hiking of prices of goods whenever these grants were cut.

It is also important to note that Folsom uncovers the actual effect of hiking taxes especially on the poor man. When taxes are hiked, it only encourages the wealthy to hide their money to evade paying them. Tax evasion does not contribute to the growth of the American economy. However, it is important to note that when taxes are decreased, it is to the benefit of everyone. It encourages entrepreneurship which is a great economic booster.

In addition, Folsom’s book uncovers unethical activities by political entrepreneurs in a ruthless way. In the same way, he generously praises the good deeds of the market entrepreneurs and commends their success in business. In this context, he shows a timeframe that led to the current Americas prosperity.

Philosophical Relevance to Today’s Business-Government Relationship.

Folsom points out some crucial facts that can promote the country’s economic growth. Some issues such as decreasing tax rates can lead to increased government revenue. However, having tax hikes will increase the economic burden on the ordinary American. Besides, it encourages more corruption amongst the wealthy. Tax hikes also decrease the flow of money in the economy. As a result, entrepreneurial activities decrease, thus reducing the amount of cash flow being pumped back into the economy.

Another interesting fact to note is the book’s reference to the price slashing technique that is witnessed in Rockefeller’s generosity. He produced quality oil and sold it to the common man at a very affordable price. The same cannot be said about the companies that had federal subsidies and produced the same product. Their prices remained highly unaffordable to the typical American.

Although market entrepreneurs are portrayed by historians as ruthless monopolists who did everything in their power to stay top in business, their resilience is the one that significantly contributed to America growth into a superpower. The political entrepreneurs, however, did not remain afloat for such a long time. The subsidies that they received from the government did little to contribute to their resilience. The only thing that the subsidies encouraged was laxity and corruption. Hence theirenterprises did not grow to become someof the biggest businesses in American history. Thisshows that government subsidies do not contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship (Drouin, 2015).Instead, it creates a form of leeway for corruption among business people and politicians.


The book is an accurate reflection of how the growth of the American economy came to be. It uncovers truths that historians tend to cover up in the articles and journals they publish. The Myth of Robber Barons is not a myth. It is a reflection of how political entrepreneurs conducted business in the early days. By contrasting poetical entrepreneurs with market entrepreneurs, it sheds light on the specific contributions that different stakeholders made to the country’s economic progress.

Folsom, in his own unique way, shows some of the issues that positively grew the American economy. At the same time, he points out some grave mistakes that led to the depression of the country’s economy. He encourages hard work for upcoming entrepreneurs and points out that entrepreneurship is irreplaceable. He praises the deeds of those that positively contributed to the country’s growth. He points out some of those deeds and uniquely integrates some of the valuable lessons learned into the current world we live in.This book has a unique way of changing the way people think about some of the founding fathersof big business in America. The author uncovers the veil that covers the real heroism of these men who, through great sacrifices, helped build American prosperity.

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