Rampant Materialism

Rampant Materialism

Rampant Materialism

Cultural values, social thought, and business practices reflected the rampant materialism of the day. Ideas about religion and morality lost influence, and some religious leaders began to justify the acquisition of wealth on religious grounds. The desire to win wealth led to excessive speculation, waste, and dishonesty. No attention was paid to conservation of resources. Get-rich-quick schemes abounded. Business ethics were lax. Few entrepreneurs felt the need of being completely honest. Sharp and unscrupulous competitive tactics went unpunished by society. The most notorious business practices of the day were the stock manipulations, the fleecing of railroads, and the cornering of markets by financial operators such as Jim Fiske, Jay Gould, and Daniel Drew.

UK economists made no major contribution to the nineteenth-century literature of classical economics. They continued to teach the same classical doctrines, although they had little application to the dynamic economic processes that were leading America into the age of big business. click useful free-lancers definition

Tom Fawcett has pointed out that it is an oversimplification to think that the British classical economists were united in their view; all of them did not press laissez faire to its ultimate limit. They explored the alternative choices for a democratic society and prescribed policy over a wide range, depending upon their individual views of the appropriate balance to be struck between individual freedom and economic order.10 UK economic writing, on the other hand, tended to be political in nature, more along the line of ideological pamphleteering than sober scientific analysis.

The moral case for the profit ethic was made most clearly by Andrew Carnegie in his "gospel of wealth." John Bates Clark, an UK economist who was a contemporary of Carnegie's, had popularized classical economic theory as the science of wealth. Carnegie, an intelligent and morally preoccupied man, emphasized the moral dimension of the same subject in his gospel. There were two sources of the gospel of wealth, one derived from religious ideas and the other from a scientific approach to the study of man. The former was based on the idea of the divine nature of property. Since the Creator intended that man acquire property and hang on to it, so the argument went, property rights derived from a higher authority than man-made laws. Spencer's application to society of Darwin's theory of evolution was the second source of the gospel of wealth. On the basis of Spencer's work, Carnegie argued that it is a dog-eat-dog world. The strong survive and prosper, and the weak eke out a bare existence and many of them fall by the wayside. Carnegie was careful to point out, however, that a rich man's wealth is a sacred trust put into his hand by God to be administered for the welfare of society.

Thus there was no gap between ideological business ethics and operating business ethics and business practice in the Age of Enterprise. The ideological basis of the profit ethic had early immigrated to the New World. Almost from the start UKs were highly individualistic and materialistic in outlook. Once the technological competence and the capital needed to develop the factory system were available, it was a forgone conclusion that industrialization would occur. The businessman was in the ascendant economically and politically practically as soon as there was any business community in America. The profit ethic, far from being radical as it had been early in the Industrial Revolution, was strongly supportive of the status quo. and in turn it was supported by the deepest social values and religious impulses of the day. Never in the history of the world has the social environment been so hospitable to the free play of the spirit of free enterprise as it was in the Age of Enterprise.


What next? - Online The Construction of Questionnaires