In 18th century America, our Founding Fathers proclaimed the United States to be a "great experiment." Some 240 years later, given the disparities in wealth and social prominence, the experiment seems to have run amok, producing inconclusive results. It makes one wonder as to the validity of the original premise. Can a self-governing populace actually enjoy extended prosperity?
America is poised to revisit the economic times witnessed in the decades either side of the turn of the 20th century.
Historians will label five men as the builders of America. John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford were collectively deemed pioneers of innovation and perseverance in their particular economic endeavors. However, only Ford's example of innovation and perseverance was truly American.
The other four became mere carbon copies of the same greed and despotism that originally prompted immigrants to abandon the old world and embrace the new.
Today, the Koch brothers have reinvented John Rockefeller's manipulation of the energy markets. Wal-Mart and McDonald's now engage in the employee disrespect and substandard compensation that Carnegie and Vanderbilt employed in the steel and transportation industries. Morgan's influence is still being felt as banks become wealthier and their patrons become poorer.
Because Ford envisioned the American economy as a two-way street, he believed that all Americans deserved good-paying jobs. Only a handful of companies and managers still honor that principle.
One can only hope that Costco, Volkswagen of America, and similar companies will prevail in this "great experiment."