American capitalism, the cult of wealth (1/3) – The paradise of millionaires (1870-1920) – Watch the full documentary

American capitalism, the cult of wealth (1/3) – The paradise of millionaires (1870-1920) – Watch the full documentary
American capitalism, the cult of wealth (1/3) – The paradise of millionaires (1870-1920) – Watch the full documentary

How, in the United States, did the frugal Republic of the founding fathers transform into a government of the rich for the rich? In three episodes, this documentary series retraces the major stages of American capitalism.

At the end of the 19th century, a club of millionaires – John D. Rockefeller and his oil monopoly, the steel king and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie or the banker JP Morgan who, from Wall Street, financed the industrial revolution – emerged. is taking over America, where immigrants provide a forced labor force. The pact sealed between the worlds of business and politics accelerates the race for the benefit of free enterprise and the establishment of ruthless capitalism. But a progressive movement denounces exploitation, social distress and the corrupting power of great fortunes: on the eve of the First World War, child labor was banned and a tax was introduced on the income of the richest. Philanthropy, exempt from taxes, then becomes a tax niche of choice. In 1914, the massacre of striking miners in Ludlow (Colorado) shocked public opinion. A key player in the transition to mechanization and mass production, Henry Ford decided to pay his workers double the average wage. While productivity increases in its factories, a Tennessee grocer foreshadows mass distribution with self-service. But after the war, the millionaires, who could not stand the irruption of the State into their affairs, found their lost paradise. Child labor is restored and taxes are reduced: it is the return of laissez-faire.

Out of control
How, in the United States, did the frugal Republic of the founding fathers transform into a government of the rich for the rich? Through a gripping story, nourished by archives of a very cinematic American capitalism, this documentary series reveals the continuity of an elite which has always known how to justify its opulence and eliminate competition, by skilfully recycling the mythology of the country to make his domination acceptable. Founded on freedom of enterprise and the search for individual profit, but also on the control of the law – the law in the service of private interest – the system makes the exponential concentration of wealth inevitable, even if the supporters of regulation by the State have never ceased to oppose this fierce ultraliberalism. From the philanthropic alibi to the renewed promise of “trickle down”, from the myth of the self-made man to the heroic figure of the visionary genius of Silicon Valley, these three episodes unfold a century and a half of capitalism spiraling out of control. for almost four decades, despite conflicts and struggles. If the Occupy Wall Street movement, in particular, denounced the greed of this “1%” of the population in the face of the “99%” who suffer from it, 722 billionaires and 22 million millionaires in America continue today to discreetly increase their fortune by paying less taxes than their secretaries, completely legally.

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