History Channel: The Men who built America

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • Author
  • #19395

    I caught just a bit of this new mini series on the History Channel. It’s got narration, interviews and dramatizations about Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan.

    I only caught 5 min but in that time I caught the sense that these men were just pure EVIL.

    Here’s a segment on Rockefeller and Monopoly : http://www.history.com/shows/men-who-built-america/videos/the-men-who-built-america-monopoly#the-men-who-built-america-monopoly

    Thanks to Libertyclassroom and Thomas Dilorenzo’s lectures on Anti-Trust that provided me with a proper context of this period.

    The majority of people watch this stuff. The History Channel is to History as MTV is to Music.


    Check out this blog post from Charles Burris at LRC too:



    I watched almost all of it; I skipped the last one.

    It isn’t uniformly bad. But it does have the usual slant.

    It’s portrayal of the Homestead Strike, both the run-up to the Strike and the “battle for the plant,” was rubbish – tendentious to the point of mendacity, claiming Carnegie & Frick refused to negotiate was an outright falsehood (they had successfully concluded negotiations with all but one union before the strike, and did have an offer on the table for the final union) and their portrayal confrontation between the Strikers and the Pinkertons absolute fantasy. I can only guess that they consulted with the most extreme “labour” “historian” they could find, and printed the legend.

    It was after that – that was the bridge too far for me, I decided I wouldn’t watch the next episode. Even PBS did better and I expect almost nothing from them when it comes to portraying labor disputes.

    But, hey – at least it isn’t “Ancient Aliens.”


    @ enron Yeah I did see that blog post. The commentators that I saw seemed like a weird fit, Alan Greenspan, Jim Cramer..???

    @ Porphyrogenitus I’m with you on the Ancient Aliens, maybe a show or two, but not a whole day or week or year devoted to it.

    The Universe was one of my favorites on the History Channel.


    Some close friends of mine said they watched this series, and came away with the impression that Rockefeller and Vanderbilt caused the Great Depression. Exactly what the %#$@ are they talking about?

    I may be giving them a subscription here for Christmas.


    A subscription here and a copy of Bob Murphy’s Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal might help them.

    Re. the History Channel version and the commentators they had on it – the most pathetically lulzy was Senator Rockefeller running down grandpa. But that’s par for the course.

    What would have made it interesting is something along the lines of Murray Rothbard’s take on Rockefeller & Morgan. Looked at a certain way, perhaps they *did* cause the Great Depression – just not in the way the History Channel and all the Official Academic Intellegencia wants people to believe.

    (But, then, one day I’m going to work up the nerve to ask Tom et al here what they think of Rothbard’s take on the influence of the Morgan & Rockefeller aligned business & banking interests).


    I don’t think Tom would deny anything of that really. I recall Prof. Woods recommending G.Edward Griffins Creature from Jekyll Island. That book is much more explosive than anything Rothbard wrote(not a digg at Rothbard but simply stating that Griffin goes far into conspiracy in that book.)

    Sort of related but here is a piece by Alexander Tabarrok on Morgan vs the Rockefellers:
    Now Tabarrok of course runs the one of the biggest economic blogs in the world with Tyler Cowen. Tried searching for more of Tabarrok on similar issues but couldn’t find any.

    I don’t think Rockefeller had anything to do with the Great Depressions origin. If anything it was Morgan men who ran the FED especially their chairman at the time. According to Griffins book which is pretty well documented it happened because the Morgan men around the FED were anglophones and England was losing gold to America at the time because of Englands mistaken monetary policy and appeasment of the unions. The FED chairman and the Bank of England Chairman were close. Essentially Griffins argument is that the Morgan crowd(and by proxy America) helped/subsidized England.


    Thinking more about it, I’m wondering if Rockefeller and Vanderbilt were blamed for the Long Depression, which was called The Great Depression at the time.

    Obviously Venderbilt couldn’t be blamed for the 1930’s Great Depression. This would be absurd.

    However, my understanding is that the Panic of 1873 and the following depression were caused by monetary expansion that was used to finance the Civil War.

    Just to be clear, I haven’t seen the History Channel special, and only got that accusation from these friends of mine.


    Well the “Long Depression” Is an artifact of modern econometric statistics.

    Now, there was a real downturn in 1873 and there appears to have likewise been a downturn in the early 1890s. But that entire two-decade period was not a depression; if anything these men could be blamed for making it prosperous.

    Because during those two decades industrial & agricultural production increased significantly, and standards of living went up. The thing that makes it seem like a long period of depression economics in modern statistics is that there was a significant general deflation as price levels fell even more rapidly than in the rest of the 19th century. But they fell due to rapidly rising industrial and agricultural production. That is the opposite of a depression.

    Note: this brings up one of the areas where “The Men who built America” is tendentious; the series speaks often of wages being cut and efforts to cut wages “to maintain profits.” But it never once mentions that the reason for the nominal cuts in wages was generally falling prices of goods, which meant not only that this was done to keep the companies from running losses, but the new wage levels still reflected increasing purchasing power (real wages went up during this period, not down).

    The faculty could probably cite the statistics better than I could.

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.