Men of Wealth

20 August 2007 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment

| Peter Klein |

John T. Flynn’s 1941 classic Men of Wealth is back in print, courtesy of the Mises Institute. I’ve had an old copy on my shelf for years, having once stumbled across a rare first edition at Bell’s Books in Palo Alto. The book profiles Jacob Fugger, John Law, the Rothschilds, Robert Owen, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Henry Green, Hachirobei Mitsui, Cecil Rhodes, Basil Zaharoff, Mark Hanna, John D. Rockefeller, and J. Pierpont Morgan. Unlike the typical business history text (ahem), it is written in a lively and engaging style. To get the flavor, consider this excerpt from chapter 9 on the little-known but highly influential arms dealer Basil Zaharoff:

Zaharoff played a leading, if not the leading, role in that strange world comedy of the arms makers leading the double life of chauvinists and internationalists. They gave us the spectacle of Boers mowing down English regiments with Vickers’ pom-poms, Prussian surgeons picking out of Prussian wounded Austrian shrapnel fired by Krupp’s cannon, French poilus massacred by shot poured out of guns made in Le Creusot, English Tommies killed by weapons produced by Armstrong and Vickers, and American ships sent to the bottom by U-boats built on models supplied by American submarine builders. Zaharoff was the master of what one biographer has called the “principle of incitement,”under which war scares were managed, enemies created for nations, airplanes sold to one nation and antiaircraft guns to her neighbors, submarines to one and destroyers to another. He did what the cigarette people did, what the liquor industry, the beauty industry did — created a demand for his merchandise. The armament industry became a game of international politics, the arms salesman a diplomatic provocateur, the munitions magnates of all nations partners in cartels, combines, consolidations; exchanging plans, secrets, patents. He was the greatest of all the salesmen of death, and, as one commentator has observed, if you would see his monument, look about you at the military graveyards of Europe.

You can read the rest of the chapter here.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Business/Economic History, Classical Liberalism, Entrepreneurship.

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