"I believe the power to make money is a gift of God . . . to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money, and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow men according to the dictate of my conscience."
- John D. Rockefeller


As this statement clearly demonstrates, the people called the captains of industry felt that their success in the acquiring of money was due to the hand of God being on their shoulders and that their own morals would dictate to what good use that money would go to their fellow man. This was the beginning of a philosophy first coined by Charles Darwin, in a purely biological form, called The Theory of Natural Selection or Darwinism, later to be used by Herbert Spencer in a more social form for human applications in society, hence the name Social Darwinism. Industrialists who had gone from being captains of industry to Robber Barons wanted a philosophy to justify their means of acquiring wealth. Social Darwinism was one such philosophy. These Robber Barons used Social Darwinism as a justification and, even worse, as a moral to sanction their own actions, not considering that their own actions could be wrong. As time progressed, a change had come to the industrialists and their philosophy. Just as Social Darwinism changed, so did industrialists. They changed in reflection, from acquiring the means to support their fellow man, to acquiring the means to support themselves at the expense of their fellow man. Such was the influence of Social Darwinism on the Robber Barons and their methods in the late nineteenth century America. To see what influences Social Darwinism had and how its fundamentals could only lead to such influences, one must take a look at Social Darwinism's basic outlining premises (Angeles 63).

To begin with, Social Darwinism's infancy, in its biological form, was The Theory of Natural Selection, and its father was Charles Robert Darwin. Born in Shrewsbury, England, in 1809, educated at Cambridge and Edinburgh, and died in 1882, Charles Darwin developed the biological theory of natural selection (Angeles 63). This theory explains that natural selection is the process that brings about the survival of the strong and adaptable, and apparently, the destruction or devitalization of the weak and less adaptable. The theory of natural selection depends greatly on the variability of life over a long period, which will gradually result in structural changes called adaptions. Charles Darwin held that all living organisms adapt in different degrees and have a different number of random variations. There are variations that increase and there are variations that decrease the chances of survival for any living organism. The variations that increase the chances of survival or the rate of reproduction persist in existence. The variations that increase the chances of survival are preserved in the parent generation of a variant population of organisms, and are then transmitted to future generations. The variations that decrease the chances of survival in any given organism decrease or die out with the organism that they affect. Evolution had been in the realm of science before Darwin. The Theory of Natural Selection was Darwin's concept of evolution by natural selection. Charles Darwin said natural selection was natures way of choosing the ablest biological organisms to survive (Angeles 199-200). Charles Darwin's definition for natural selection was that the strong (those with variations that increase survival probability) survive and that the weak (those with variations that decrease survival probability) die or devitalize. Never in his life did he say "survival of the fittest", and never did he mean for his theory to be used in a social form. Herbert Spencer, with a few others, however, decided that was what Darwin meant and that it should be applied in social terms.

Social Darwinism was an application of Darwin's Theory of Natural selection to the society of the late nineteenth century America. Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher, wrote that society had operated like a jungle in which only the fittest survived, and that, although this process was a cruel one, it promised long-term benefits that would gradually make for a wholly, just, and peaceful society. He emphasized, however, that Social Darwinism must be upheld, that the process of this social natural selection must be allowed to operate at its own pace and that efforts to improve society during this natural process would both be misguided and futile (Roner 999-1000). Social Darwinism held that when man is born, man has the necessity of sustaining his existence, which he will receive by a struggle against nature. This struggle is both to win what is essential to his life and to ward off that which is a danger to it. Nature holds what is essential to man, but nature will not offer it as a gift. Man must strive to get and take what nature holds.

The continuation of the race for health and vigor, and its success in the struggle to expand and develop human life on earth requires that the head of the family shall, at his own expense, be able to supply not only his own needs, but also the needs of the people who are dependent on him. If a man uses his energies to continue the struggle on behalf of himself and his loved ones, then that person shall have the right to dispose of the product exclusively as he chooses. The struggle to get a fortune gives strength of character, something a man who inherits his wealth rarely gets, but hereditary wealth transmitted from father to son is the strongest instrument to keep up a steadily advancing civilization. In the absence of the law of entail (the law to limit the inheritance of real property to a specific line or class of heirs) and perpetuity, it is inevitable that the capital will speedily slip from the hold of the man who is not fit, back to the man who is, and who can use it for the benefit of society (Persons 70-90). At first, this definition of Social Darwinism did not institute that man used man to get what he wanted, but that man should get what he needed to help man. When Social Darwinism was still in its first stages, industrialists and leaders of corporations clung to it as a way of life. During its first stages, Social Darwinism would fool everyone. What they missed was an underlining meaning that instituted that man must strive to survive and get what he wanted any way he could.

Finally, when times changed, the true underlining definition of Social Darwinism came about. Social Darwinists began to say that the strongest and best fit to survive were those characterized by egoism, ruthlessness, competition, ambition, manipulation, scheming, intelligence, energy, wealth, and power. They also said that the unfit are characterized as being noncompetitive, altruistic, idle, lazy, powerless, and poor (Angeles 63). They said that the poor were poor because they were lazy and that they worked in the factories of the rich for the same reason. They also said that if the poor had any ounce of energy and ambition, they could go out and succeed in life. Not only did they say this, but they said that the leaders and the industrialists were the fittest, and they should be able to employ any method they wanted to get what they needed. Anyone standing in their way was defying nature. Though the Theory of Natural Selection went from being a purely biological process into one that is social, it still implied that the process was natural. Social Darwinism had made its inevitable change to battle the ever present unions that said their workers were being mistreated, or not being paid enough. All the while, the industrialists were still bantering that their use of man was good for society and would make for a prosperous nation.

Secondly, although they were the men who made the industry in America during the late nineteenth century, and they were the men who were once called the captains of industry (a title given to them that spoke of the awe inspired by their accomplishments), they had never been universally admired. When the industry began to fail during the Great Depression of the 1930's and as their methods began to become more crude, they had begun to be called Robber Barons. This term was given to them by people who claimed that the working classes were brutalized by the factory systems (Kennedy 314). This is what Social Darwinism had done to the industrialists in the eyes of the people. They first saw great men who created an industry with great power to match it, but later they saw men who used high handed methods and used people for their own gains claiming that Social Darwinism gave them that right. Though not all the industrialists were bad and used methods to stagnate the competition, many of them made off with more money than is countable while leaving their fellow industrialists in the dust. To see what and who these Robber Barons were, one needs to look at their finest, their leaders: Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

Andrew Carnegie was a great businessman who was born in Scotland and whose family had come to the United States in 1848. His family had been poor, so at the age of 16, he took a job as a messenger boy for $2.50 a week. With whatever money he could save, he began to educate himself by reading books during his off hours. One day he met the manager of a Pennsylvanian Railroad and was offered a job with the railroad. Soon after that, Carnegie began to buy stock in other companies with some borrowed money. These companies grew very big and made Carnegie fairly rich; at the age of 33, Carnegie was making about $50,000 a year. In 1873, with the knowledge he had learned from reading his books, he turned his attention to making steel. Two years later, after visiting some steel factories in England and learning a new method of turning iron into steel called the Bessemer process, he decided that his mills in Pittsburgh should be using this new method. After his return from England, Carnegie built the biggest steel mill near Pittsburgh and started out using the Bessemer process. By 1900 the Carnegie Steel Company's profit was at $40 million a year. By the next year, 1901, Carnegie decided to retire and sell his business. He sold his company to a group of business leaders headed by a Banker in New York, J. P. Morgan. Morgan paid Carnegie $492 million for the company, making Carnegie the richest man in the world (Pech 132-3). Not all his wealth was luck and being able to use a better process than his competitors. What placed him over the top was his practices of putting his competitors out of business, cornering other businesses in the market and buying them at any price he named, and showing no mercy to anyone.

"The 14-year-old did not smile as he walked home from school in Cleveland, Ohio. Smiling, laughing, and enjoying himself were not important to him it was the idea of becoming rich. He once told one of his school friends: 'When I grow up, I want to be worth $100,000 and I'm going to be too.' He was not joking. Rockefeller rarely joked" (Pech 130). While he was young, Rockefeller learned a very important lesson about making money. During one summer he got a job from a farmer digging potatoes for 37 cents a day. Rockefeller saved all the money he got from the job and soon he had saved $50. The farmer that was employing him asked to be loaned the $50. Rockefeller agreed and charged the farmer seven percent interest. Rockefeller, having grown up, explained what this loan had taught him, "I soon learned," said Rockefeller, "that I could get as much money for 50 dollars at seven percent interest... as I could earn by digging potatoes for 10 days." Rockefeller developed a talent for managing his money and making it grow. While he was a young man he opened up a business buying and selling grain. The business made large profits in its first year and Rockefeller used those profits to buy an even larger business: oil.

Before the 1850's oil had not been used for much, usually for back rub medicine and certain drugs. Then in 1859 a railroad conductor, named Edwin L. Drake, dug for oil near Titusville, Pennsylvania. He struck oil and began producing 20 barrels of it a day. Since there was now enough oil to be refined into kerosene, kerosene lamps became the major means of lighting United States homes and offices. Other people rushed to put down wells in Titusville, making pumping for oil a thriving business. Refining also became a thriving business and Rockefeller and some others saw that Cleveland was a good place to start making refineries. In 1863, Rockefeller and a few other men built a refinery in Cleveland. Two years later after the American Civil War, Rockefeller bought out three of his four partners. Not even being 30, Rockefeller became a very rich man; his business could turn out more barrels a day than any other refinery. Still, the oil business was a risky one. Fortunes were made and lost overnight. To stay on top, Rockefeller had to sell more and more oil because some refineries were catching up. He not only wanted to be the biggest oil company in the country, he also wanted to be the only oil company in the country. He wanted to drive all his competitors out of business. To do this, Rockefeller made a deal with a railroad company to exclusively use them in exchange for a rebate, and because of this rebate, Rockefeller could sell his oil for less than his rivals. One by one, he bought up the other companies that were forced to sell at almost any price he offered. By the end of the decade, he controlled most of the piping, refining, and selling of oil in the United States (Pech 130-2).

Many business leaders did this, but Rockefeller only cornered one market: oil. There were many other markets like Carnegie and his steel company. Many people did not know what to think of these business leaders. It was hard for them to decide whether they were good men or evil men. These business men showed no mercy to their rivals and they wielded great power. Some men saw this as bad and that it was a threat to democracy. On the other hand, some people admired what all these business leaders had done. "Was it better, then, to think of these men as 'captains of industry' and praise them for making the United States into a strong industry nation? Or was it better to think of them as 'robber barons' who enriched themselves while hurting others? Some Americans in the 1900's answered the question one way - and some the other" (Pech 133). Tying Social Darwinism together with the Robber Barons was a perfect match, because both had the same principles. The industrialists saw Social Darwinism as a way to justify their actions, and it did for many years, until the people saw through their disguise. Social Darwinism had claimed that the wealthy were a product of nature, as when Yale Professor William Graham Sumner concluded that, "The millionaires are a product of natural selection." Not only did Social Darwinism institute that it was the effect of nature, it also instituted that it was a God given right for these business men to have money. John D. Rockefeller once said, "The good Lord gave me my money." Such is the product of a man who uses Social Darwinism as a way of life (Cashman 308-9).

In conclusion, Social Darwinism was a philosophy that instituted that the men of business had the will of God behind them and that natural selection was not only a biological factor, but also one of social selection. The philosophy of Social Darwinism influenced the ideas and methods of the Robber Barons, which seemed to fit perfectly with their existing ideas. It gave them better ways to defend their actions against society, which is clearly demonstrated by their more than eager willingness to adopt Social Darwinism as their own philosophy. Not only is the implication that Social Darwinism gave them the divine right to use their methods wrong, but so was their idea that Social Darwinism gave them sanction against their high handed methods toward their workers and rivals. Man may have the right to do anything they want with their product, sell at any price to any person, but man does not have the right to use people for their own gain. Man does not need moral sanction from society, which people like Andrew Carnegie seemed to think they needed.

After everything is said and done and history has passed, and we must face the future. The government was right in stopping the Robber Barons in the past, but now that things look better. There is no real need for strong government intrusion. However, government is still passing regulations left and right. Government may even be on a collision course. Only the future can determine what that collision will be against. What lies ahead of us, now that the Robber Barons of the past have made the people of the present wary of business men? What awaits us in this great society called America is possibly the end of capitalism, and even democracy. The one thing that has made the country so great, is awaiting its death. Many people have become disillusioned about capitalism, afraid possibly of more people like John D. Rockefeller in the time of the late twentieth century. The United States Government is cracking down more and more on the great companies of our time. Such as a few years ago, one company's trust, who was buying up all the small companies present in each town, was broken apart. While at another time, a few years back, another company that was doing very bad business, was poorly run, and had no money, had been given aid by the same government. This goes against everything that capitalism is about : private enterprise, which clearly means private property. Property is owned by individuals and by no means does the government have the right to intervene. If you take away the right of people to run their private enterprises any way they want, as long as it does not go against man's rights, then, in effect, you take away private enterprises all together, destroying capitalism. Since capitalism is the backbone of democracy, when you take that away you can only have three outcomes. One, democracy is still present, run by either socialism or weak communism. Two, you have no democracy but a form of governmental regulated life, close to what is presently taking place, where the government has laws for everything. Three, you have an angered people who feel that the Government has infringed on their rights and possibly a second revolution. Think about it the next time you see another law being passed, hindering some private corporation. Who knows, maybe some day, 20 years from now, you could be looking out a window in an apartment you paid for by working at a job, and at that job, you get paid the same amount as the next person even though you do the job ten times better than they do. Looking out that same window, you see a government run grocery store, a government run computer company, and a government run restaurant, and all the while thinking that all of this was made possible by a group of people, about a hundred years ago, who decided that Social Darwinism was a good philosophy to use. Bibliography:

Arnof, Dorothy S. A Sense of The Past: Reading in American History. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1973.

Boorstin, Daniel J. A History of the United States. Massachusetts: Prentice-Hall, 1990.

Cashman, Sea Dennis. American in the Guilded Age. New York: New York University Press, 1988.

Grob, Gerald N., and George Athan Billias. Interpretations of American History. New York: The Free Press, 1987.

Josephson, Mathew. The Robber Barons. San Diego: Harcourt Braces Jovanich Pub., 1962.

Kennedy, David M., Thomas A. Bailey, and Mel Piehl. The Brief American Pageant. Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1989.

Lawrence, Bell. Fascinating Facts From American History. Maine: J Weston Welch, 1982.

Peck, Ira, and Steven Jantzen. American Adventures: Old Hate - New Hope. New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1970.

Persons, Stow. Selected Essays of William Grakam Sumner: Social Darwinism. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963.

Roner, Eric, and John A. Garraty. The Readers Companion to American History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.


posted by dharh 1:34 PM Aug 3rd, 2007

I think that Mark Twain had it right when he said that we are all liars. He may have said it in jest, but perhaps he was alluding to our growing use of the lie and what constitutes a lie. As Chris Rock observes, women provide the "visual lie," especially when dating. For example, women put on high heels when they aren't tall, they put on makeup to disguise how their faces really appear, and they wear the Wonder Bra to make their breasts look larger. With men, it's the "actual lie." They act differently than they really are when they are dating such as appearing to be interested in their date's hobbies when they really aren't. Then there are more profound lies such as lying to your mate about your fidelity. Which lies are "really lies," are lies wrong, and are some worse than others?

According to Charles Fried, even "[a] little lie is a little wrong but still something you must not do" (205). Immanuel Kant describes the issue as a "duty of veracity, which is quite unconditional" (198). Henry Sidgwick, however, has the view that "lies [are] sometimes justifiable under certain circumstances" (216). While Immanuel Kant and Charles Fried appealed to the deontological view that lying is wrong and regardless of the consequences one has a duty to not lie, others such as Henry Sidgwick have appealed to the utilitarian view that lying in and of itself is not inherently wrong and that a person needs to only consider what actions create the best consequences for everyone.

As rational beings and as part of the human contract of interaction, we have a duty to protect and to not impede an individual's rights and autonomy. There is an intrinsic value in a person's autonomy. A person does not have autonomy unless he or she has the psychological capability for rational decision making that is based on the truth. Any action that limits or deprives another person of their autonomy is bad and an intentional action to do this is morally wrong. Perhaps it is not a universal law that lying is wrong, but being lied to causes a person to have a view of the world that is different from reality, thus depriving them of their autonomy. Lying is also inherently exploitive and manipulative. Each person has a right to make informed decisions that affect his or her life without being manipulated by another person's lie.

It is wrong to lie most of the time, for most reasons. However, the "visual lie" as described is not necessarily a lie because the truth is obvious. Even with the best of intentions and believing the consequences of the lie will be positive, there is never a guarantee that the result will be positive, won't result in someone losing their autonomy, and won't be exploitive or manipulative. In a few situations when telling the truth would result in severe physical or emotional harm to another person or yourself, you can appeal to the utilitarian view that not lying will have far worse consequences; the lie itself is still wrong but not lying is more wrong. Truly, in those situations when the reasons for telling the truth are not clear, one must use their best judgment and take responsibility for their actions. A lie always has the potential to cause harm.


posted by dharh 1:31 PM Aug 3rd, 2007

Before we start I believe we should talk about the distinction between business and poverty inside and outside of this country. I believe there should be no distinction. As Peter Singer argues that "we cannot discriminate against someone merely because he is far away from us (or we are far away from him)..." (579). Businesses have the same obligations internationally that they have here. Likewise when it comes to poverty we should be fighting against it both here and abroad.

Wealth in itself is not intrinsically good or bad. John Hospers states that "[a] million dollars made on the free market means that that a great deal of money has filtered down to a very large number of people in the economy" (235). However, oftentimes top managers of a company make exorbitant salaries and share in most of the profit, leaving little for the workers who make the company the money. In a purely capitalist system there is little regard for the individual worker; there is only regard for that which creates the most wealth. I believe it matters how one accumulates wealth and that ethics is an integral part of our lives and should not be left out of the workplace. Robert C. Solomon explains that "[t]he bottom line of the Aristotelean approach to business ethics is that we have to get away from the 'bottom line' thinking and conceive of business as an essential part of the good life . . . " (262).

Karl Marx argued that our very nature is to work and that in a capitalist system we are alienated from the product of our labor ultimately depriving us of our being and connection to our community. Solomon agrees with Karl Marx and believes that working should be a "worthwhile" activity that provides "meaningful substance" and is a "source of our sense of self-worth..." (263). There is room in a capitalistic society for an individual to be successful and become wealthy, for a company to make a profit, and for both the individual and the company to have a sense of community.

When it comes to poverty there are of course two main opposing camps, those who have an altruistic ideal and those who have more of an individualistic responsibility or a utilitarian ideal of advancement of civilization though some may suffer more than others. Ayn Rand argues that we have only a duty to pursue self interest both rationally and long-term. That altruism devalues the individual self and sets us up to being prey to be sacrificed for moral criteria to the beneficiaries of one's actions. An individual knows his own wants and unwanted charity degrades ones self-respect and self-reliance as well as being invasive.

Garrett Hardin described a possible outcome of providing food for countries not willing or able to save due to population growth as a tragedy of the commons where all will suffer. Andrew Carnegie argued for individualism, private property, the law of accumulation of wealth, and the law of competition. Without such things as the law of accumulation of wealth everyone lives in squalor. He argues that "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" (588). However, Carnegie also argues that vast inequalities promotes discourse and revolution and must be reconciled. His solution is by giving in a slow but increasing amount the estate upon death to the public.

In the opposing camp Peter Singer believes we have an obligation to give until it becomes detrimental for us (578). Only in spreading the wealth evenly to all people can we be ethical. Amartya Sen argues that starvation and hunger are failures of entitlement, that famine is often not a result of lack of food but lack of entitlement of many peoples access to the food in the country. He argues for the rights of the people not to be hungry.

In my opinion the individual is most important when it comes to both topics of business ethics and poverty. It is the individual who needs virtues and the separation of outside life from work life is both needlessly conducive to unhappiness it separates us from virtuous acts. To leave our virtues at home it promotes a business and workplace without virtues. Perhaps like Carnegie I believe in private property and the laws of accumulation of wealth and competition but I also believe in the ethical accumulation of that property, wealth, and practice of competition. I believe in the right of people to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in that order further I believe in the right of people not to be hungry. Perhaps not at the excess of what Hardin suggests but we have an obligation to provide for the entitlement of as many people as possible to get food. This is of course not to say we force feed people, if people beyond reason do not wish to take charity then that is their right of liberty. If we are to promote the idea that capitalism and commerce is good for the common good because it promotes advancement and uplifts civilization then we must also argue that towards that same goal excessive salaries for top managers and CEOs of corporations should be diverted back to the business to provide for more jobs and growth of the business.


posted by dharh 1:27 PM Aug 3rd, 2007

In looking at racism and sexism we can outline several things in which to think about. First, what does it mean to be a racist or a sexist? Second, what are the reasons or background for being racist or sexist? Third what are possible similarities, differences, and issues between sexism and racism? Further we can look at the current issues of sexism and racism as we deal with them today. Such as minority groups and feminist groups and their practices of exclusion or correction programs like affirmative action. Finally we can ask the questions of why it is so important to rid ourselves of racism and sexism and what possible ways we can do so.

Racism is the view that ones race, particularly your own, makes one superior than another while sexism is the view that ones gender, particularly your own, makes one superior to the other. For example men are seen to be more independent, capable, and powerful than woman. Whites are also seen this way against those of color. The further removed one is from what is considered the normal the more inferior you are.

Jean-Paul Sartre in his description of the anti-Semite asserted that "[if] the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him." Further explaining that the anti-Semite chooses to hate because this passion fills him when otherwise we would be empty (338-339). Others such as Marilyn Frye might describe racism less insidiously as she does sexism, "cultural and economic structures which create and enforce elaborate and rigid patterns..." (413). Perhaps it depends on different people and circumstances, it can be one or the other or even a little of both.

In The Erasure of Black Woman Elizabeth V. Spelman argues against the ideas that sexism is more fundamental than racism, that if you get rid of sexism all racism would be gone, and that sexism is much harder to eradicate. My argument would be that sexism is the most pervasive, while perhaps sexism is not the most fundamental, sexism accounts for at least half the population, racism can account for far less. Sexism occurs to those even who would be oppressors, such as the white woman. Spelman argues that you can't equate a black woman's experience of sexism with a white woman's experience, and that the black woman experiences oppression uniquely different from of the black man.

In describing her participation with feminist groups Bell Hooks "found that white woman adopted a condescending attitude towards me and other non-white participants" (363). Shelby Steele argues that minority groups and feminist groups have forgotten the objectives that called for their existence in the first place. In direct opposition of the integration sought in the mid-sixties they sought sovereignty and collective entitlements. Steele describes collective entitlements as "always undemocratic" and inherently exclusive (365 - 369). Both Michael Lind and Shelby Steele had problems with racial preference policies or programs such as affirmative action. Michael Lind described it as a "tokenism embodied in racial preference and multiculturalism" (374). Shelby Steele explained that affirmative action "has very little real impact on the employment and advancement of blacks" (366).

Shelby Steele described the reasons for getting rid of racism and I would assert sexism when she wrote, "[i]ntegration had little to do with merely rubbing shoulders with white people... [i]t was about the right to go absolutely anywhere white people could go... [t]o be anywhere they could be and do anything they could do [is] the point" (367). How can we get rid of sexism or racism? We can't do it by policing people's minds, locking them up for merely thinking sexist or racist thoughts. It is not the role of government to change public opinion. I would even assert that people have a right to think anyway they want. We can however begin to rid sexism and racism through education. Even now the next generation has a harder time understanding their parents racisms. It may not be as quick as many would want it but it can be done slowly by ensuring as Shelby Steele described it as "the inclusion of all citizens into the same sphere of rights, the same range of opportunities and possibilities" (369).


posted by dharh 11:45 AM Aug 3rd, 2007


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