NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The New Gilded Age And Return Of The Barons

March 1, 2000

The current period of U.S. economic growth parallels the "Gilded Age" in a number of ways, says Richard Lowry of National Review. The Gilded Age is the period roughly from 1870 to 1912, when America saw runaway economic growth.

One parallel is that prominent businessmen, such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, are being cast as modern-day "robber barons." We should be so lucky, since thanks to the alleged robber-barons, new technologies led to declining prices and productivity-driven growth.

  • Average railroad freight rates dove from 20 cents a ton per mile in 1865 to as low as 1.75 cents in 1900.
  • By the time John D. Rockefeller Sr.'s Standard Oil had captured 90 percent of the oil market, it had, through efficiencies, pushed down the price per barrel from 58 cents to 8 cents.
  • And Andrew Carnegie drove the price of steel rails from $160 a ton in 1875 to $17 a ton in 1898.

The low prices helped energize the entire economy, and economic growth helped lower inflation.

Source: Richard Lowry, "TR and His Fan," National Review, February 7, 2000.


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