Thorstein Veblen, the greatest American thinker you probably never heard of, predicted the rise of a Gilded Business Man and the demolition of democracy.
Veblen got his initial job, teaching political economy at a salary of $520 a year, in 1890 when the University of Chicago first opened its doors. Back in the days before SATs and admissions scandals, that school was founded and funded by John D. Rockefeller, the classic robber baron of Standard Oil. (Think of him as the Mark Zuckerberg of his day.)
from the beginning, Thorstein Veblen was there, prepared to focus his mind on Rockefeller and his cronies, the cream of the upper class and the most ruthless profiteers behind that Gilded Age. He was already asking questions that deserve to be raised again in the 1% world of 2019. How had such a conspicuous lordly class developed in America? What purpose did it serve? What did the members of the leisure class actually do with their time and money? And why did so many of the ruthlessly over-worked, under-paid lower classes tolerate such a peculiar, lopsided social arrangement in which they were so clearly the losers?