During the second Industrial Era, wealth was dominated by banks and corporations, whereas laborers were exploited at lower wages and many of them died at work by accident. Russell Conwell, the author of Acres of Diamonds justified the rich by saying, “I say you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich … The men get rich because they are honest men … there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcoming.”(262) The Capitalism movement tends to be criticized because of the inequality between rich and poor. Only some people had wealth and authority and the rest of people were exploited as labor. However, the idea of Capitalism was accepted by the public including lower-class people in the American Society and gave opportunities to the poor and improved people’s life certainly.
At that time, the entire society encouraged the Capitalism movement. Indeed, churches, schools and literature taught people the idea of Capitalism the rich is superior to the poor and the poor needed a tremendous effort and extraordinary luck to become wealthy. Furthermore, wealthy people donated their money to education and were called philanthropists. As a result, many colleges were founded and many children became literate. It was like the rich built the factory to produce new generations who are better-educated and trained. It was beneficial to both the public and the corporations. People started having better jobs and salaries. On the other hand, people obtained the opportunity to climb to the upper class by education. These rewards to the poor from the rich formed the obedience to the authority. The poor appreciated the rich people for spending money for the poor and also recognized the fact that the rich people had enough money and power to control the school systems. Hence, the poor people realized they needed to obey the rich people.
I think Howard Zinn mentions these arguments because he thought the Capitalism improved the society a lot although it caused inequality and harsh working environments. Zinn also gives examples of successful people, such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, to emphasize how Capitalism gave people opportunities and luck. In my opinion, Zinn does not say that the rich are generous to the poor. They redistributed their earnings to the poor for their own and the society’s future prosperity. Capitalists are good at manipulating people like easing their complaints and encouraging them to be obedient to the authority. In my opinion, the philosophy of Capitalism is not as simple as “the more money the rich gets, the more the poor suffer,” but also “the more money the rich gets, the more the society is improved” because the rich people enhanced the standard of life of the poor in actuality.