"The struggle of bankers for control of America is an enduring theme in American history since the founding. Defeat of the southern aristocracy during the Civil War unbalanced the political balance, giving Northeastern bankers unprecedented dominance. They used this to implement a policy of tight money. The resulting shortage of currency reduced much of rural America to barter (cattle sales to the Indian Agents were one of the few sources of cash in the West; eastern villages were reduced to barter with general stores as clearinghouses). This resulted in a boom-bust pattern of growth and deflation which almost exterminated the small farmer and merchant classes. The results were a massive concentration of wealth and power, continuing until they overreached themselves. The political convulsion of the Great Depression restored a more balanced distribution of political and social power. Starting in the 1980′s the banks gradually rebuilt their political influence with both parties by means of massive campaign contributions, armies of lobbyists, and well-funded advocates at think-tanks. This effort produced large gains:"
This is over-simplification of sort (if nothing else, by default, since there are many other things to be mentioned and discussed in this vein); however, certainly the Civil War (including Lincoln's Land act which altered education in this country) marked the beginning of a "sea change" that we are seeing in fruition since about 1960. At the very least, the Civil War was a watershed in which the intermediate institutions (Robert Nisbet) began to be subservient to the federal power, thus imbalancing the organic substrata of government and the social edifice. If intermediate institutions were imbalanced by the War, then they were liquidated during the century which followed. Perhaps (one might think) technology made this process inevitable? However, it is interesting that the progressive argument for technology embraces "conservation" the instant that technology is introduced into the debate. Technology is by definition the application of intelligence to Nature with the method and theory of science. How (then) can we fail to consider the results and plead inevitability? What else is government for but to either encourage, or resist, the Zeitgeist? Since the Civil War, America has not really known a government or elite that was willing to critique itself; the "liberals" (in other words) are faux liberaux - they substitute a critique of "reactionaries" (conservatives, fascists, racists, populists, nationalists, etc.) for the proper self-critique of Socrates, who said "know thyself". This should define the essence of classical liberalism; but it does not. Instead, it becomes either self-hating and other-hating in a destructive form, rather than self-critical in a true sense. America has not known a self-critical moment in a long time. Since we have not engaged in this past time, we substitute ersatz critiques which center around scape-goating someone or something else (see Rene Girard). Hence, the rage for progress, democracy, technology, etc. at the expense of "bad" societies (there is always a bogeyman out there). This is an actual religion, and it is being conducted from the halls of the moneychangers. The Revolution must go on.