Paul Krause: In letter to NYT decries new Gilded Age

Historians in the News

To the Editor:

As a historian who has written about Andrew Carnegie and Gilded-Age America, and as an ex-journalist, I read your article with great interest.

While you unearthed many telling similarities of our era and that of Carnegie, an important matter was not mentioned: In the 1880s millions of Americans — urban workers and farmers, native-born and immigrant, Southerners and Northerners — launched mass democratic movements out of the belief that something had gone terribly wrong with their country.

In their eyes, the United States was not a Triumphant Democracy, as Carnegie characterized it in the title of his self-serving book of 1886; rather, the country was, as one critic put it, an example of Feudalism Restored.

Given the proof of deepening and unconscionable economic inequity unearthed by your reporter, not to mention the new zillionaires’ thoroughly unself-conscious, zany hubris, one might argue that today America has entered a neo-feudal era. Who knows, the putative serfs of our time, like those of the Gilded Age, might take up metaphoric arms. Let’s see what happens in November 2008.

Paul Krause
Vancouver, British Columbia, July 15, 2007
The writer is an associate professor of United States and African-American history, University of British Columbia.

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Randll Reese Besch - 7/26/2007

unlike in Carnigea's time jobs weren't offshored to the lowest bidder leaving Platrom companies. Also the voting machines weren't rigged and owned by one party either. Just one disaster away from martial law and economic calamity.