The Industrial Revolution that began in the 19th century in the United States was a time of great commercial progress and monumental changes to the economic structure of this country. At that time, powerful businessmen emerged, such as John D. Rockefeller and John Jacob Astor, to commandeer significant industries like oil and steel production; however, despite their influence and contributions to industry in America, many in the economic sector accused these “robber barons,” as they were named, of shady business practices and underhand dealings (Ringer, 2010, p. 39). These business practices, such as collusion (collaborative price fixing), rebate kickbacks, and horizontal and vertical integration, allowed big business to gain significant advantages over competition.
These practices begged the question whether the federal government should have done more legislate a fair playing ground for all businesses during this time. While these practices might have been better enforced, the federal government likely recognized that, overall, big business and industrialization was vastly improving the average American’s quality of life at that time. The federal government in the 19th century left big business alone for the most part, and it was right to do so, since it would have been counterproductive for the government to curb the business practices of capitalistic ventures that were improving society.
Per author and historian Ringer (2010), “industrialization lifted the living standards of the masses to a level never before imagined” (p. 39). If the federal government had stepped in to monitor and control businesses during the Industrial Revolution, capital growth would likely have been slowed, and, as a result, the lives of the average American citizens would not have been improved by as much a factor as they had been. In this case, the federal government should not have stepped in to stop certain business practices. If anything, control was better left to state authorities, who would have a better sense of the business practices going on under their purview.
- Ringer, R. (2010). Restoring the American Dream: the defining voice in the movement for
Liberty. John Wiley & Sons.