Galbraith first explores the social darwinism of Herbert Spencer and others that served as apology for the highly unequal distribution of wealth in the US at the end of the 19th century and naturalized differences in wealth by appealing to the concept of natural selection of the fittest. Then some instances of the unscrupulous business practices (i.e. robberies) of the American railroad tycoons and other business magnates are recounted. Lastly, Galbraith lines out some of the arguments of Thorstein Veblen, who delegitimized and ridiculed the business and leisure activities of the rich by putting them in the same category as predatory and ritualized practices of primitive or ancient societies.
This book provides important insights into agrarian history and the economic and cultural meanings associated with land.