The song we hear from our rulers is that America was built by immigrants. The other version is that America is a nation of immigrants. The latter does not hold up under scrutiny, but the former probably gets closer to the truth. The nation was obviously settled by people from over the sea and that settlement continued into the 19th century. The word “settler” is correct as most people who came over came in search of land, which is why there was a steady march west during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The last couple of decades of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th, on the other hand, were a time of high immigration. These were people headed for urban centers to work in factories. The new industrial barons wanted cheap labor so they imported it. It is probably true that the rapid industrialization of American could not have happened without the massive flow of migrants from Europe. It is certainly true that the newly minted industrial millionaires got rich from the supply of migrant labor.
By the second decade of the 20th century, the great fortunes of the industrial age had been built. Men were still getting rich, but they were not getting rich like Carnegie, Rockefeller or Mellon. There was also a move to reign in the super rich of the day by busting up trusts and forcing competition back into the market. Again, you could still get rich making stuff, but it was mostly by applying industrial techniques to narrow areas of the economy. Of course, the end of the industrial boom saw the boom in global finance.
The other thing that developed in the late phase of the industrial era was organized crime, most notably La Costra Nostra. The official narrative says it was Prohibition that ignited organized crime, but there were gangsters in America before that event. A better way to frame it is that urban criminal organizations were uniquely positioned to flourish in the era of illegal booze. They had worked out most of the problems that come with organized crime and so they had the people and structures in place to be rum runners on day one.
Prohibition era gangsters were cold blooded killers, for sure, but many were quite innovative in the crime business. Many of the techniques they employed to secure their businesses, territories and settle problems in their organizations are right out of the modern business school. The more famous gangsters could have been successful in legitimate business, but by the time they cam along, the big money from industry had already been made and the doors were closed to newcomers, so they went into crime.
It should also be noted that organized crime did pretty well through the Depression and the Second World War. Things got a little tougher in the post-war era, but the Mafia was still going strong into the 1970’s. The wheels came off for the Mob in the 1980’s, at the dawn of the technological revolution. New laws, but mostly new technology allowed the Feds to roll up the Mafia. The state had also taken over their rackets, like gambling and loan sharking, while foreign cartels took over the drug trades. Today, the mafia is dead.
Like the industrial revolution, the technological revolution has created some fantastically rich men. The difference is that the modern billionaire is most likely making his money from all over the world. Technology has allowed him to get rich because it allowed him to easily do business everywhere. The men who made the railroads were constrained by geography. They had to settle for being rich men in one country. Therefore, they took an active interest in their host country, often being very patriotic and nationalistic.
The new over-class lives globally so they think globally and that has brought problems unique to the technological era. But like the industrial age, the great fortunes were mostly made early on as everyone raced to apply the microprocessor to the big problems of society. Men are still getting rich, but the age of the instant billionaire are largely over. The SnapChat people are probably the last guys to hit the lottery with a killer app. The low hanging fruit has been picked. What’s left is the stuff that is harder to reach.
Another similarity to the industrial age is the role of immigration. As Steve Sailer has pointed out, the tech people were granted an unofficial waiver with regards to labor laws and identity politics. Up until very recent, we have not seen any pressure on Silicon Valley to hire blacks or women. They have relied on an army of helot labor brought over on visas or setup up in camps over in Asia. In many cases, firms have flagrantly violated the laws aimed at curtailing this stuff, without facing much in the way of scrutiny.
In all probability, there will be people in the coming decades who point to the microprocessor revolution and say it was built on the backs of immigrants. Our cosmopolitan grifters already believe this. As with the industrial revolution, it will not be entirely wrong. The more accurate way of stating it is the great fortunes could not have been amassed without cheap foreign labor. The initial work, the groundbreaking work, was done by locally grown pioneers who did the inventing and innovating.
The one main difference between this age and the prior age is we have not seen the growth of organized crime. There are Russian gangsters stealing credit cards and running various financial scams, but nothing like the Italian Mafia. No one has tried to organize tech workers like the mob organized Jewish butchers or the garment industry. The old mob used fear to tax legal business and fearlessness to monopolize illegal business. We are not seeing anything similar, outside of the drug game run mostly by Mexicans.
Part of this is due to the fact that most vice is legal. Gambling is everywhere now, mostly run by the state or state sanctioned enterprises. Booze is everywhere and pornography is on TV. Even prostitution is largely ignored by the state. The only illegal business is drugs and that’s run by Mexican cartels. There’s also that fact that there are many ways for a clever and adventurous person to get rich in politics or the shadier sides of finance. Crime simply does not pay as well as politics or banking.
That may be the way to look at something like the Clinton Foundation and, coming soon, the Obama Foundation. These are not explicitly criminal organizations, but they certainly play outside the spirit of the laws. Obama is out of office and prohibited from running again, but he still controls the Democratic party. The Clintons would be in charge, if not for the fact that the voters took their under boss out in the Tuesday Night Massacre, otherwise known as the presidential election. Even so, the Clinton Family is still a player.
In other words, the analog to the great mafia families of the prior era will be political organizations and operations that work the fringes of the system to rake in huge piles of cash for the people running them. Right now, the best way for a moderately intelligent person to get rich is to win a seat in Congress. Even a seat in the state legislature can be parlayed into a comfortable lifestyle paid for by insider deals and influence peddling. If you are not the sort to run for office, helping those who do run for office is very lucrative.
In one of histories great ironies, the English speaking world went to war with fascism and defeated them on the battlefield, but ended up adopting most of the fascists socio-economic polices. Similarly the US government went to war with the mob, but is now embracing the same ethos as those long vanquished gangsters. Maybe like the oxpecker, the tiny bird that lives off rhinos, human society will always have a quasi-criminal class that lives off the people at the pleasure of the people in charge.