Why was the Sherman Antitrust Act ineffective?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Sherman Antitrust Act was not an effective law.  The goal of this law was to make it more difficult for trusts to form.  A trust is a legal agreement in which businesses merge.  This reduces competition, and this is usually beneficial for business owners.  This law basically made it illegal for trusts to form.  However, the enforcement of this law was left to the court system.  Since the legislation was vaguely worded, the courts often did not act to break up the trusts.  When cases came before the courts, the courts would find reasons not to break up the trusts, even though the courts acknowledged that a trust existed.  For example, in the case involving the American Sugar Refining Company, the court did not break up the trust because the manufacturing was not considered interstate trade.  In 1899, over 1200 trusts formed.  Clearly, this law was not effective.

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