Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Helpful study guide and SAFMED terms: 
(you can't print or copy and paste the page but I think it's a really useful link)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Robber Barons and Rebels: Seminar Prep

1. Actively read chapter 11 of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, "Robber Barons and Rebels". The chapter is available for view and print at : http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinnbaron11.html

2. Post two of your own discussion questions

3. Respond to at least one of the questions below (200 word minimum)

A) Zinn suggests that the US government’s non-intervention in business practices enabled exploitation and the widening gap between the rich and poor at the turn of the 20th century. At the same time, he points out that the free-market system enabled individuals from humble beginnings (i.e. Edison, Carnegie and Morgan) to become self-made millionaires. Evaluate Zinn’s notion that “the government of the United States was behaving almost exactly as Karl Marx described a capitalist state: pretending neutrality to maintain order, but serving the interests of the rich.” What impact did this approach have on American society as a whole?

B) Based on this chapter, was Big Business steering US politicians or were politicians steering Big Business in the period from 1890-1910? Provide evidence to support your answer.

C) By 1886,” the Supreme Court had accepted the argument that corporations were "persons" and their money was property protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” To what extent should businesses be entitled to the same rights and privileges as American citizens?

D) Monopoly and trust-busting were two political issues that reflected a great schism between the American industrial working class and wealthy elite. Zinn notes that many political policies which initially aimed to protect the common American were corrupted by misinterpretations in the US Supreme Court.

E) As corporate wealth expanded in the early 20th century, so did the causes of philanthropy and public works charities. In your opinion did the trend of corporate philanthropy (charity) advance or distort democratic process? Explain.

F) As the labor force became greater in members and discontent, so did the American Labor Movement. Consider the gains and losses made by strikers and unions in the period of 1890-1910. Was this movement a success or failure of the American working class? Explain.

G) Union activists (including Eugene B. Debbs) and members were often indicted for socialist beliefs and organizing against the government. Does promoting union values make one a socialist by definition? Is being a socialist particularly anti-American? Explain your answer.

H) According to Zinn, “ on top of the serious failures to unite blacks and whites, city workers and country farmers, there was the lure of electoral politics-all of that combining to destroy the Populist movement. How did the geographic, ethnic and racial diversity of the American workforce from 1880-1910 affect politics of the period as a whole? Provide specific examples to support your response.