Brett's Reviews > Triumphant Plutocracy: The Story of American Public Life from 1870 to 1920

Triumphant Plutocracy by Richard F. Pettigrew
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's review
Feb 26, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: history, socialism, domestic-politics
Read in July, 2009

It's hard to assign a star value to this book, though it is undoubedtly valuable as a historical reference point, and as possibly the most scathing book ever published by a former United States Senator. R.F. Pettigrew spares no one from his venom--make no mistake, if you were in government at the same time as him, he does not like you.

This one has a special signifigance for me, since Pettigrew represented my own home state of South Dakota. I think it's safe to say he was the most radical representative we have ever had, and are likely to ever have from that state in federal government. He names plenty of names of those he feels are impeding the people's agenda. Plutocracy means rule by the wealthy--and he lays out a case for why various senators are actually representatives of wealthy interests rather than the citizens of their home states. I have little trouble believing this is true, as it is manifestly obvious that this is still the case.

It is difficult to understand how a politican that says some of the things that Pettigrew says could ever be sent to the Senate: beyond naming names, he talks openly about the conflict between capital and labor and was a great admirer of the Russian Revolution. I get the sense that many of his colleagues may have considered him to be something of a nuisance. I think Pettigrew would be pleased with that, and I also think we would be better off if we had more people in government willing to stir the pot the way Pettigrew did.

The import of the some of the early chapters is somewhat difficult to gage now, as the hot button he addresses have sort of faded from public view (it's hard for me to formulate strong opinions about the public lands issues he discusses, for instance), but I am certainly glad to read this one so I can have a more clear picture of this early twentieth century hellraiser, and feel some measure of home-state pride over it.
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message 1: by Jerry (new)

Jerry Baker One interesting thing about this book is that it mentions the federal bailout of the Wall Street bankers in 1917, just before the US entered the European war. Our government reimbursed the bankers for huge, unsecured loans they had made to European countries. Those countries spent the money on US-made war materials, which enabled them to participate in the starting of that war.

Brett Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Thanks for mentioning this Jerry, and sorry for not responding earlier. I hadn't seen this comment until just now.

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