Garlin and Bellamy illustrate two very contrasting images of the current and potential future of American life as it was in the 1890s, with wealth becoming increasingly distributed and opposition to capitalism as it existed, in the form of socialism and radical leftist ideals, firmly coming into existence.
Using Garlin’s Under the Lion’s Paw, capitalism is displayed in an interesting crossover of agriculture and business. At a time when fears of big businessmen such as Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, and JP Morgan, and their powers through their wealth, gripped the nation, Garlin tells the story of capitalism on a smaller, and to a casual reader, a more palatable and understandable scale. Interestingly, however, the reader must engage in careful analysis of the situation the desperate farmers, the Haskins, find themselves in throughout the story. At the conclusion the reader, myself included, felt a great deal of anger towards the land owner, Mr. Butler, for doubling the Haskins rent and their cost to buy out the land from him. It must be noted, however, that Butler played the risk on the land just as much as the Haskins did, Butler has just “won” the land speculation game more times and knew what he was getting into. Anyone can find success in land speculation as Butler did. He started off as just a simple store owner, a “land poor” western man who was up all night and day toiling to keep his store running. He just had the cunning to make decisions to get ahead and practice smart business. The Haskins find success as well, however their financial burden increased as a result of it. They lost in the end, however this was due to a large misstep in the beginning that capitalists are very keen about. In the all-important negotiating process, the desperate Haskins did not think to plan ahead for the financial future of the land they were renting. Butler, the western capitalist, knew how to speculate and find success. Simply, Haskins’ new rent at the conclusion was his own fault, and it was not worth murdering the capitalist who has fairly won the right to charge more for the land.
As mentioned, Bellamy writes in fear of this potential of capitalism, marked by men known “to view their natural prey in their fellow men, and find their gain in the loss of others;” instead he envisions for the future a utopia marked by government control of every economic and business decision within the nation. Bellamy’s romanticizing of politicians and their power, especially in saying “We should have thought that no arrangement could be worse than to entrust the politicians with control of the wealth-producing machinery of the country,” comes in stark contrast to the earlier capitalist-centric writings of Andrew Carnegie and especially William Graham Sumner, who had a distinct distrust of politicians, philanthropists, and humanitarians deciding what to do with the capital of the wealthy to help the working classes. Bellamy fails to consider that those who have earned the capital are those who probably know how to best administer it, especially given the free nature of the United States. Bellamy’s idealist future is nice and perfect, but he fails to consider the steps and the people who need to take those steps in order to achieve that perfection.