John Steele Gordon’s “The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street

The book is descriptive and largely pejorative in form. I suspect that he imagined the descriptive phrases that can be taken neutrally to taken as derogatory by the reader. I largely agree with the author regarding corruption of government officials; I tend to blame the officials more and the “barons” less; I think his view is the other way round.

A great deal of the book deals with shifting alliances. The movie sometimes titled “The Toast of New York”, based mainly on the book, makes good comic use of alliance building.

The main irritant to me of the book is lack of any clue as to what should have transpired, according to the author. What sort of utopia does he imagine where these problems are avoided. The book scolds the barons when they bribed but was the alternative to not build the railroads?

Several years ago I read about the building of the Canadian Pacific RR. It became clear to me that institutions for such efforts had not been invented. Things are sub-optimal as law evolves.

The book does hint at the emergence of laws and institutions to guard the interests of stock-holders.