I was also intrigued with the repeated reference to "capitalists" with a negative connotation, in part because I have an interest in economics.
The setting of this story takes place at the end of the U.S. classical economics phase and corruption was rampant in part because of the lack of an enforceable system of oversight. I believe this is the economic style of capitalism which was being criticized in the story and it's a fairly accurate view, otherwise the subsequent Keynesian system would never have taken hold in the U.S.
As an American, I do not take offense at the negative connotation towards capitalism in the story. I believe Doyle does a fair job of representing the evils in all sorts of groups and he's using artistic license to weave an intriguing tale. After all, the Freemen in the story were extremely corrupt and evil in balance with the "capitalists."
MadgeUK wrote: ?? Are you referring to Keynes' visit to Roosevelt and the New Deal etc? There certainly isn't a Keynsian system there now - 'small government' has long been the cry in America and socialist economics a la Keynes have long been decried ...
My only point was just to illustrate that the U.S. economic system would not have changed so drastically over the course of 60 or so years if it weren't for the public support of "change" coming out of the end of the classical era which was marked by the gilded age (during which the story takes place) and the indulgence into the 1920s. There is still a great debate with regard to whether or not the New Deal (which adopted elements of a Keynesian model despite the fact that FDR wasn't completely on-board with Keynes) was effective ... but regardless, the merits or flaws of any economic system wasn't intended to be made point of.
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