What Early Efforts Were Made To Control The New Corporate Industrial Giants

What early efforts were made to control the new corporate industrial giants in the United States?


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michael-niagara's profile pic

Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

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Early efforts made to control the new corporate industrial giants in the United States of America included the following:

1. The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. This Act was responsible for regulating businesses that crossed over state lines.

2. The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. This Act prohibited monopolies and any unreasonable limiting of competition within an industry.

Source: eNotes: Federal Antitrust Legislation

The government and the general public had some concerns about the power of the industrial giants. The men who controlled these vast corporations could influence the general U.S. economy overall, and more specifically supply and demand, as well as prices. Furthermore, because of their financial power and the fact that they controlled necessary industries, such as railways and financial institutions, these men also had political clout.

It wasn’t that these industrial giants, and what they offered were not needed; they were. It was just that too much power in the hands of a few industrialists was the worry. Consider that the railroad companies employed a substantial number of people, which was good for the nation. They also opened up America in the sense that goods and people could be transported efficiently nationwide. However, the government sought some controls over their power.

Therefore, The Interstate Commerce Act came to be to address railroad abuse and discrimination issues. Most notably, shipping rates needed to be reasonable and just; rates had to be published; secret rebates were now outlawed, and price discrimination against small markets was made illegal.

Source: United States History - Interstate Commerce Act

Pertaining to the Sherman Antitrust Act, its goal was to encourage, through law, healthy competition between business entities in the marketplace. This Act’s focus was to discourage monopolies and price-fixing cartels. It sough to limit a corporations ability to dominate its competitors and the Act permitted investigation of abuse and, if required, prosecution of abuse.

Source: U.S. Department of State - The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 (from Historians on America)

Considering these two Acts, it is apparent that foresight by the government and the general public determined that the aggressive business behavior of the industrial giants had to be kept in check so monopolies’ and great power beholden to a few wouldn’t permanently take root in the United States and do away with any semblance of competition and the free movement of prices up and down as befits a properly functioning free-market capitalist paradigm.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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During the late 1800s in the US, large companies were arising, many of which had virtual monopolies in their markets.  This led many Americans to want to control these companies to prevent them from using their monopolies to abuse consumers.  The earliest efforts to do so generally had to do with regulating the prices these monopolies could charge.  One example of this was the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.  Later on, laws were passed to prevent monopolies.  The major example of this was the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.  Neither of these laws was particularly effective, but both served as examples of the idea that large companies should be regulated.

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