The Gilded Age, State Capitalism, & Laissez-Faire Capitalism

Calvin P. Kennedy Jr.
4 min readApr 4, 2022

The Gilded Age was the era of economic jackpot. Unlike today, the American government of the Gilded Age allowed businesses to operate without their presence or mere intervention. The Gilded Age experienced an economic boom due to the national support & implementation of laissez-faire policies. Ironically, liberalism is why this era thrived in the way it did. Liberals during the Gilded Age believed that free markets possessed the intrinsic ability to produce the best solutions for economic/social issues, which is why government intervention was not needed. Free markets have no reason for government, especially since consumers control and regulate supply/demand, product value, labor cost, market trends, etc.

During the Gilded Age, the American government held a pro-business stance. This stance allowed for a restricted & limited government to exist. The government’s absence allowed private businesses to construct innovative solutions for some of America’s most important problems. The limited government allowed private companies to develop essential infrastructure projects & create more jobs to boost the American economy. This time was the start of a laissez-faire capitalist economy. Moreover, it boomed brighter than ever, thanks to the minimum government.

Unfortunately, even with elements of capitalism, there was still room for political & economic error. During the early stages of the Gilded Age, state capitalism was seen in action, and it is believed to be what gave a negative connotation to free-market capitalism.

For example, Liberal Republicans during the Gilded Age advocated ending government corruption; a massive portion of their platform was anti-big government. America’s 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant, was known to be scandalous; hence, why he was unfavored. Liberal Republicans grew tired of the corruption in Ulysses’s S. Grant administration, so they later ran against him. They believed he was no good for America and would not do much for the American economy/society. Liberal Republicans hated Grant because of his scandals, reconstruction ideas, terrible political decisions, and the family and friends he appointed into government positions. Grant was known as one of America’s most useless presidents; he got into altercations with several politicians, lacked an understanding of politics, and abused his power. Liberal Republicans eventually ran their endorsed candidate Horace Greeley against Ulysses S. Grant but lost the election.

Lucky for America, Grant only worked during the early stages of the Gilded Age, but he still made significant accomplishments. Under Grant, there was a strong economy. Grant managed to lower tariffs, reduce debt, and repeal taxes. Grant was not a perfect president, but he is a prime example of why state capitalism is not good. Grant simultaneously wanted economic freedom and government regulation/intervention, which is how economies get state capitalism. State capitalism may hold elements of free-market capitalism, but it also allows for markets to be regulated and controlled by a state’s government. The Gilded Age allowed laissez-faire capitalism to take place, and ever since then, America saw the most extensive growth it had ever seen since the pre-gilded age.

The gilded age is why John D. Rockefeller was titled America’s first billionaire in 1916. The Gilded Age was why Andrew Carnegie went from a child of poor immigrants to a prominent steel industry leader. Furthermore, the Gilded Age is why America has the Ford Motor Company. During the Gilded Age, little to no government involvement benefitted this country in ways most people do not recognize. Industry captains like Carnegie, Rockefeller, & Ford made the impossible possible. Andrew Carnegie gave America the largest steel company. John D. Rockefeller uplifted the lives of millions by donating his wealth toward philanthropic initiatives. Henry Ford not only created one of the world’s best motor companies, but he donated millions to education, paid the medical expenses for low-income individuals, and created a school for African-American children in Georgia.

Immense economic growth can occur with a laisse-faire capitalist economy. Citizens must be left alone to make economic decisions for themselves. There must be no regulation or forced market manipulations. Laissez-faire capitalism was how America grew at one point. Maybe twenty-first century America should take notes from nineteenth-century America.

State capitalism can never be used to mobilize a nation economically. It can only be used to regulate an economy for a particular interest (special interest), whether it be political or personal. State capitalism does not preserve economic freedom, but Laissez-faire capitalism does. Laissez-faire capitalism protects business owners, consumers, and workers from exploitation. State capitalism is a type of capitalism regulated by manipulated market forces, which can also impact consumers in various ways. Laissez-faire capitalism is the purest form of a free market; which can be seen when measuring the impacts of different types of free markets. Laissez-faire capitalism protects the citizen against big government, while protection is not guaranteed under state capitalism (depends on the law set by the government under state capitalism). Laissez-faire capitalism allows consumers to make their own decisions in a market, while state capitalism can force taxes on citizens, impact consumer choice, and regulate private industries.

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Calvin P. Kennedy Jr.

NO GODS. NO MASTERS. NO SLAVES. I’m simply just a homosapien with a disregard for authority.