U.S. Gilded Age – Politics, Monopolies, Corruption, Historic Insights, Lessons Learned?



Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
– George


The wisest mind has something yet to learn.”
George Santayana


A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”
– George Santayana


Most men’s conscience, habits, and opinions are borrowed from convention and gather continual comforting assurances
from the same social consensus that originally suggested them

George Santayana, all per WikiQuotes.

He died in 1952, and Santayana was noted as a “philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist.” While all of the above quotes by the author along with others are interesting, perhaps the most useful variation by Santayana’s lesson of history quote is this next variation, and it is highly useful for manufactured housing and much that vexes America today. Here it is: “Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them, Santayana said.

Why look at the history of the so-called Gilded Age? Because while the parallels are imperfect, there are indeed similarities between that era of American history and the modern age. Yes, much has changed in a technological sense. Politically, America has evolved from a nation where the federal government did little on matters of poverty in terms of programs during the Gilded age, to a nation that now does much, spending billions upon billions that at least claims to help ameliorate the plight of the poor. 

=================== Update 5.9.2020 ===================

In the wake of the COVID19 pandemic, this Gilded Age and Monopoly focused article has surged in readership. That’s understandable, because the case can be made that it very much relates to what is occurring at this time. The article linked below was posted on 5.8.2020 and is relevant for those seeking more insights on the ‘contemporary’ gilded age. Following this link, the original article resumes.

“Never Let a Good Crisis Go To Waste” – COVID19 Pandemic – Problems and Solutions

=================== end of  5.9.2020 update, and returning to the original post on the Gilded Age and monopolies. ===================

But what is much alike between that era and now is the huge gap between rich and poor or the system where political parties often benefited powerful, monied interests.  Monopolistic practices were serious problems in those days.  The ‘trusts,’ oligarchs, or so-called monopolists have increasingly emerged as serious problems in our own modern era too. Note the political cartoon further below, and ponder how it might be done today.

We aren’t necessarily endorsing these next two videos per se.  But we’re providing them as a starting point for professionals to become familiar with the Gilded era. The efforts of citizens of that time to fight the corruption of that era are noteworthy. While some of that success followed the Gilded era per se, the foundation for those achievements began in the late 19th century.

The first video takes a comical approach and is relatively short, coffee break length video. Having viewed each, it is worth noting that each video has a largely different emphasis.



The second from PBS’ series dubbed the American Experience takes a more serious approach and you’ll likely have to watch it during an evening after work.



The Gilded era witnessed the creation of what became an important foundation for federal antitrust law. Years of corruption sparked action.




Fast forward to the past few decades, and we see that antitrust law has often been feckless, but having them and pressing politicos to use them can lead to action vs. inaction. Not unlike manufactured housing’s inability to get certain existing laws fully enforced, such as the Duty to Serve (DTS) manufactured homes mandated for manufactured home lending by Government Sponsored Enterprises by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, or the “enhanced preemption” provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) of 2000, antitrust laws are arguably used incompletely.

While there are libertarian minded professionals who tell MHProNews that even though they lament the growing monopolization of manufactured housing, they believe in free enterprise and thus they think that the trend of monopolization should be allowed to continue.  With all due respect to those who hold that view, they’ve arguably missed a key point.  Monopolization, crony capitalism, vulture capitalism and the like are not free enterprise.  They are rather an enemy of free enterprise.




The so-called Gilded era had a wide gap between the haves and have nots. That’s back. That era witnessed the rise of powerful ‘trusts’ or monopolies, and we see those patterns today too.

The price of freedom and liberty is vigilance. 

Let’s close with a reminder that Warren Buffett is fan of history (wheat). He has said that most people don’t learn from history.  Buffett considers that to be an advantage for him, and no doubt other uber-rich think so too.  That sounds like a good reason to have a better sense of history, so that the lessons of the past can be successfully applied to the present with the aim of having a brighter future.  Monopolies – the trusts – have at various times been more restrained than others.  That means it is doable.  Enforcing antitrust laws are one of the ways of accomplishing that goal.

The PBS video above makes it clear that the late 19th century Populist Party successfully mobilized voters to act.  It has been done before, so it can be done again.

Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.” – George Santayana.

 That’s this Monday, Monday first look at “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing,,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)

SoheylaKovachDailyBusinessNewsMHProNewsMHLivingNewsSubmitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.
Soheyla is a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. Connect with us on LinkedIn here and here.

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