5.6 Doesn't Capitalism Pollute the Environment and Rob the People?

The story of Cornelius Vanderbilt is a story about how to get rich and benefit others at the same time.  Cornelius Vanderbilt was the first person to be called a Robber Baron.  Cornelius's dad was poor so when Cornelius was 11 years  he quit school and went to work on the waterfront.  When he was 16 he purchased a boat with money he borrowed from his parents.  He used the boat to ferry passengers between Staten Island and New York City.  With the money he made he bought more and more boats.  Then he sold them and became a steamship captain.  With the money he earned he bought a steam ship.  During the next decade, Vanderbilt gained control of the traffic on the Hudson River by cutting fares and offering unprecedented luxury on his ships. His hard-pressed competitors finally paid him handsomely in return for Vanderbilt’s agreement to move his operation.  His taking money from them as a condition for moving was why he was called a Robber Baron.  Was it fair to call that robbery?

He then concentrated on the northeastern seaboard, offering transportation from Long Island to Providence and Boston. By 1846 he was a millionaire.  A million dollars back then is worth 35 million of today's dollars.  When gold was discovered in California the gold rush started.  Instead of rushing to California to mine gold he start a transporting people by ship from New York to San Francisco.  Cornelius probably made more money off of transporting people than anyone did off of mining gold in California.  He then bought so much stock in trains that he owned several train companies.  He was the first to offer rail service between New York and Chicago.  During the last years of his life he had a large train station built in Manhattan that he called the Grand Central Depot which today is Grand Central Station.  This employed thousands of people at a time when there were many unemployed people.

Here is a video of the trains on the New York Central put to music.  This is not on the quiz.


John D Rockefeller was also called a Robber Baron.  He became rich off of oil.  When he started people wanted kerosene which has to be refined from oil.  They saw what was left as waste.  John saw it as gold.  He sold the paraffin that was left over to candle makers.  He sold the petroleum jelly that was left over to medical supply companies. 

John's critics say he should have paid more to his workers.  That may be true but he paid them enough money that they chose to work for him and he certainly didn't rob them.  Before his death in 1937, Rockefeller gave away nearly half of his fortune. Churches, medical foundations, universities, and centers for the arts received hefty sums of oil money.

In the video below John Stossel talks about the Robber Barons and a lot more.


In the above video the economist Dan Mitchell says that countries that have money can pay for products that make people safer and the environment cleaner.  When we buy cars in America they already have pollution reducing equipment installed.  They have catalytic converters that convert toxic gases to safer gases.  Cars also draw unburned exhaust into the intake of the engine so that it will be burned.  The result, cleaner air.

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Does Automation and robots cause people to lose their jobs?

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