Everybody Ought to Be Rich: The Life and Times of John J. Raskob, Capitalist

Everybody Ought to Be Rich: The Life and Times of John J. Raskob, Capitalist

by David Farber
     
 

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Today, consumer credit, employee stock options, and citizen investment in the stock market are taken for granted--fundamental facts of American economic life. But few people realize that they were first widely promoted by John Jakob Raskob (1879-1950), the innovative financier and self-made businessman who built the Empire State building, made millions for DuPont and

Overview

Today, consumer credit, employee stock options, and citizen investment in the stock market are taken for granted--fundamental facts of American economic life. But few people realize that they were first widely promoted by John Jakob Raskob (1879-1950), the innovative financier and self-made businessman who built the Empire State building, made millions for DuPont and General Motors, and helped shape the contours of modern capitalism. David Farber's Everybody Ought to Be Rich is the first biography of Raskob, a man who shunned the limelight (he was the anti-Trump of his time) but whose impact on free market enterprise can hardly be overstated. A colorful figure, Raskob's life evokes the roaring twenties, the Catholic elite, the boardrooms of America's biggest corporations, and the rags-to-riches tale that is central to the American dream. Farber follows Raskob's remarkable trajectory from a teenage candy seller on the railway between Lockport and Buffalo to the pinnacles of wealth and power. With no formal education but possessed of a boundless energy and an unshakeable faith in individual initiative (his motto was "Go ahead and do something!"), Raskob partnered with great industrialists and financiers, buying up companies, leveraging investments, reorganizing corporations, funneling money into the political system, and creating new pools of credit for rich investors and middle class consumers alike--practices commonplace today but revolutionary at the time. His most famous innovation was mass consumer credit, which he offered to individual car buyers, enabling working and middle-class Americans to purchase GM's more expensive cars. Raskob desperately wanted to bridge class divides and to share the wealth American corporations were fast creating--so that everyone could be rich. Chronicling Raskob's short-comings as well as his successes, Everybody Ought to Be Rich illuminates a crucial but little-known figure in American capitalism whose influence can still be felt today.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Mr. Farber chronicles in well-researched detail the surprisingly colorful life of John J. Raskob, who is relatively unknown compared to many other business leaders of his era. Farber effectively brings to light Raskob's important roles in the growth and development of two corporate giants, DuPont and General Motors, at critical junctures in their histories, as well as his significant engagement in other important business, political, religious, and social activities of the era."
—Rick Wagoner, former Chairman and CEO, General Motors

"The 'organizing genius of this country' and an exemplar of the American Dream-this is how contemporaries styled John Raskob. David Farber evocatively reveals Raskob's 'inner fire' and how it drove decades of innovation within American capitalism. Business, finance, politics, motoring in the West, and creating the Empire State Building were all adventures for Raskob, and Farber's splendid prose captures the zeal and legacies of Raskob's passions."
—Pamela Walker Laird, author of Pull: Networking and Success since Benjamin Franklin

"Seventy-five years before the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management was founded, John J. Raskob unknowingly provided its mission statement. David Farber has brought to life an extraordinary figure in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States whose gifts to the Church were as much his prescience as his philanthropy."
— Kerry A. Robinson, Executive Director, National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management

"No other book covers the same ground — a curious lacuna, given Raskob's undeniable importance in economic history. A thoroughly researched book..."
—Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A comprehensive but unfortunately arid biography of John Jacob Raskob (1879–1950), whom Farber (History/Temple Univ.; The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism: A Short History, 2010, etc.) depicts as a progenitor of modern capitalism. Solidly Catholic and small-town conservative, Raskob was as close to a Horatio Alger character as the Jazz Age might allow. He came to head first the DuPont chemical concern and then, in an early exercise in cross-fertilization (or at least cross-corporatization), General Motors. As Farber writes, he was a pioneer of the hostile takeover, the credit market and the application of big money to the political process. Moreover, he was a kind of Napoleon Hill/Dale Carnegie popularizer of business and money who urged ordinary Americans to invest in the stock market and thereby grow rich--advice that, fortunately, most Americans ignored, given that the crash and the Great Depression were just around the corner. That loss of credibility and the decline of the supermoneyed class in the age of the New Deal--and here Farber's discussion makes the book timely--sent Raskob's reputation into eclipse in his own time (though Sonora, Texas, is nowhere as bad as Farber makes it out to be). He has since been largely forgotten. Granted that Raskob did not have the worldly appetites or scandal-attracting abilities of fellow Catholic conservative Joseph Kennedy, this life seems a touch dutiful, carrying its subject's stolid, businesslike manner into its pages. Still, no other book covers the same ground--a curious lacuna, given Raskob's undeniable importance in economic history. A thoroughly researched book that will appeal mostly to a scholarly rather than general audience.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199911622
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/18/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
5 MB

Meet the Author

David Farber is Professor of History at Temple University. He is the author of The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism; Taken Hostage: The Iran Hostage Crisis and America's First Encounter with Radical Islam; and Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors.

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