Rockefeller, a good robber baron

Discussion in 'History' started by Dinosaur, Nov 27, 2013.

  1. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    Ok, so you love your delusions. It doesn’t surprise me you don’t like academics and you don’t like all the facts. The facts just don’t support your fantasies and that is why you are forced to cherry pick through history, selecting the facts you like, dismissing those you don’t like, and inventing others.

    The facts are just not supportive of your ideological notions. The American people (consumers and workers) didn’t through their elected representatives’ make most monopolies illegal because they loved monopolies and monopolists as you have asserted. Americans didn’t bust up Rockefeller’s monopoly because they loved it. A little common sense goes a long way here.

    Here are the problems with monopolies, they don’t compete. They are immune from competitive market forces. So they don’t compete and they become inefficient. Additionally, since they do not compete, there is no need or incentive to innovate. And finally the excessive accumulation of capital results in an inefficient use of that capital. Those are a few of the problems with monopolies. While prices may drop initially during monopoly formation as competitors are driven out of the market, ultimately monopolists will raise prices and become inefficient because they are no longer subject to the demands of a competitive marketplace.

    Competition is the magic that makes our economy work, and monopolies by definition don't have it.
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  3. Peregrine Registered Member

    Regardless of the blatant personal attack, I concede that I misspoke. You are selectively using facts from a historical perspective.

    Yes, monopolies were outlawed because of public dislike.

    Maybe I was not thorough in my attempt. I was attempting to bridge the gap between those who are ideologically for or opposed to very large businesses by posing the question: "Is it worth it?"

    I feelthat I clearly explained the point.

    I guess what I need to do is bridge the gap between you and the OP.

    The main point of the OP states:

    One unethical point is reached when the employees are hurt in the name of efficiency. Additionally, the pains suffered should be objective and not relative to the pains caused by a competitor.

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  5. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    JoePistole & IceAura: In my Posts #1 & #8 I made some claims which I thought were well known facts to students of history.

    When challenged by you two, my Post #18 supplied some supporting quotes with links to the sources. My Post #18 also included the following.
    You two have only repeated some common myths relating to Rockefeller & the activities of the so called Robber Barons.

    Can you deny that the standard of living of the typical farm & factory worker had increased considerably by 1900 & continued to increase through most of the 20th century?

    The increase by 1900 was not due to either labor unions or government regulation/activities. The increase in standard of living was due to the activity of the so called Robbers Barons aided by advanced technology. The Robber Barons utilized technology to greatly increase productivity, thus lowering prices. Rockefeller’s effect on the drastic reduction of kerosene prices was only one example.

    The primary users of the Sears catalog were farm & factory workers, not the so called Carriage Trade. The items listed in that catalogue included such items as pianos, indicating that farm & factory workers could afford to buy such items.

    While some factory towns & factory stores were known to be hard on workers, it was not the common situation. Almost all factory towns & factory stores were established due to the remoteness of the industries which maintained them. In order to have workers, housing & shopping facilities had to be provided & maintained by the company.

    The mining industry was the worst of the industries which built factory towns. They probably were able to mistreat workers due to importing the workers from Europe. This was the case in Scranton & other areas of northern Pennsylvania which had a lot of coal mines.

    It could be that the mistreated immigrants were better off in the USA than they had been in their countries of origin. I have no citations to support this notion. My maternal grandparents came from Poland to Scranton, Pennsylvania as children circa 1890. I do know that there were several waves of immigration from Poland to Scranton, which suggests that the early immigrants encouraged others to follow.

    My maternal grandparents were not typical Polish immigrants. My great grandfather had been trained as an engineer & accountant. Compared to the other Polish immigrants, he was affluent when he came to the USA. I was told that he left Poland due to concern about possible wars with either Germany (good thought: WW1 started in 1912) or Russia.
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  7. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I agree with the first part, but second half is too general to always be true. In fact history shows it is almost always false.*

    For example, image in 1850, one lucky owner of a few whaling ships always found whales only a few months after leaving port so he made so much money even selling his oil for less than others could that, with bank loans, he bought up all the other whaling ships - and with his scale, no one could build a new whaling ship or get a crew for it. - I.e. he had the best monopoly ever made.

    Rockefeller sent him into bankruptcy too as could not pay off his banks loans when all used kerosene instead of whale oil for their night time lighting.
    * This process is so common it has a name: Creative Destruction.

    What Marx said about capitalism, applies to monopolies too: They contain within them the seeds of their own destruction. (With technical advance usually being the "fertilizer" for those seed to grow and destroy the old, even old monopolies.)
  8. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    None of that changes the fact you are cherry picking your way through history and drawing erroneous and illogical conclusions based on your cherry picked information. One of the problems you face is that your “myths” about robber barons are not myths but facts, per previously provided references.

    The facts are people were so thrilled with Rockefeller and his fellow monopolists, they made their monopolies illegal. You have alleged but not proven that robber barons improved the standard of living for those folks. So were most Americans living in that age just stupid ungrateful fools and that is why they made monopolies illegal and broker up Rockefeller’s monopoly? I don’t think so nor is there any historical record that would allow a rational individual to conclude they were and you have not proven that they were.

    Monopolies were made illegal in the US with the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, it was passed in 1890 as a federal law fix for holes in previous legislation aimed controlling monopolists.

    “The Sherman Antitrust Act (Sherman Act,[1] July 2, 1890, ch. 647, 26 Stat. 209, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1–7) is a landmark federal statute on United States competition law passed by Congress in 1890. It prohibits certain business activities that federal government regulators deem to be anticompetitive, and requires the federal government to investigate and pursue trusts, companies, and organizations suspected of being in violation. It was the first federal statute to limit cartels and monopolies, and today still forms the basis for most antitrust litigation by the United States federal government. However, for the most part, politicians were unwilling to refer to and enforce this law until Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency (1901–1909) and beyond.”

    So during the period you are referencing as prosperous, monopolies and their robber baron practices were illegal. So it is kind of odd that you think American prosperity during that period was attributable to monopolies which were illegal during the time period in question. And Standard Oil Company, Rockefeller’s company, was broken up after Standard Oil lost its case before the US Supreme Court in 1911.

    Much of America’s 19th century prosperity was generated by the huge migration from Europe to the US. The US during that period was giving away land to immigrants. You might recall the Homestead Acts, the first of which was the “Homestead Act of 1862”. My ancestors migrated from Sweden in 1879 and homesteaded 160 acres of land which over the course of the next 70 years they turned into a 1,000 acre farm. By the way they used catalogues for toilet paper. Those farmers didn’t use a lot of material produced by those robber barons. They mainly used the railroads to transport their goods, and they were not very happy with monopolistic railroad pricing.
  9. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    The Homestead Act certainly helped immigrants & others to own land. It helped USA agriculture.

    However, it contributed very little to the creation of the industrial engine which used technology to drastically reduce prices & improve the standard living of the typical farm & factory worker.

    Can you explain how the Homestead Act reduced the price of goods & services?

    I suspect that the invention of cotton gins & other farm machinery did more for our agricultural economy that the Homestead Act. Note that industry & technology resulted in the farm machinery.

    You do not seem to recognize the significance of the items purchasable via the Sears catalog circa 1900.

    BTW: Until toilet paper became a common commodity, farmers used corn cobs, not the Sears catalog.

    You probably never saw a Sears catalog. It made lousy toilet paper compared to a corn cob or a piece of cloth both of which could be washed & reused.

    It is interesting to note that until circa 1900, the USA economy was an excellent example of a Laissez Faire economy. Circa 1950 (maybe much earlier), it started evolving into what is called a mixed economy.
    Laissez Faire & technology from circa the Revolutionary War to circa the last decades of the 20th century resulted in every generation of farm & factory workers being better off than the previous generation. This has ceased to be the case.

    I claim that this is due to the USA becoming a mixed economy with Pay to Play politics coupled with increased regulation & overhead due to government at all levels.​

    BTW: Net worth has always been drastically skewed toward the top 1-10%, while income has been much less skewed. Income has been becoming more skewed in the last decode or so. This is must worse than net worth skewing.
  10. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    Duh, let me think. What could increasing the supply of food stuffs do to the production of goods and services? Think about it. What would free land do to help the lives of farmers? Gee, I wouldn’t think you need too much grey matter to figure that one out.

    Really! The cotton gin and farm equipment are worth nothing if you don’t have farmers to use them, if you don’t have the farmers to grow the cotton, and plant the crops. Further inventors were not robber barons. Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, was not a robber baron. And most of the robber barons earned their wealth during the Civil War. The Civil war created a huge demand for steel and railroads.

    Robber barons derived their wealth exclusively from one of the following industries, banking/finance, materials (e.g. steel, sugar, fur, oil), and railroads. Robber barons were not inventors. They were investors, speculators and businessmen. They didn't get into trouble because they invented stuff, because they didn't invent. It was their unsavory business practices which ultimately drove out competition and left them with monopolies that caused them problems and earned them the robber baron moniker.

    No I don’t. As I previously noted monopolies were illegal at the time. And also as previously noted, farmers were largely self-sufficient, they made their own food stuffs. They built their own homes. They chopped their own wood and they made their own clothes. They were not big consumers. They didn’t begin using tractors and modern farming equipment until circa 1914.

    LOL, oh I have seen many corn cobs and Sear's catalogues. I grew up on one of those farms.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    And I have actually used outhouses. Obviously you have never been near a real corn cob much less a farm. We are not talking about cooked sweet corn cobs here. If you had ever been near a real corn cob, you wouldn’t have made such a stupid comment. There are two kinds of corn, sweet corn and field corn. Sweet corn did not store well. So it is only available for a month or two during the year and most farmers don’t mess with it. Field corn on the other hand is widely grown and its cob is rough and can easily tear up your skin. If knew something of what you write you wouldn’t make such stupid statements. Pages from a Sears’s catalogue are infinitely better than corn cobs when used as toilet paper. And farmers didn’t used cloth because cloth was expensive and it needed to be washed by hand. They didn’t have washing machines.

    By the way, Sears’s catalogues didn’t become common place on the farm until after 1896.

    “The time was right for mail order merchandise. Fueled by the Homestead Act of 1862, America’s westward expansion followed the growth of the railroads. The postal system aided the mail order business by permitting the classification of mail order publications as aids in the dissemination of knowledge entitling these catalogs the postage rate of one cent per pound. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 also made distribution of the catalog economical.” - Sears

    LOL, are you really that dense? Didn’t you read my last post? I guess you missed the whole thing about the Sherman Anti-Trust Act? I mean what the hell; you have never really cared much for facts, evidence and reason. So why should you start now?

    Gobbledygook much? Here is the bottom line. Your ideological notions are not support by the facts or reason – not that it matters much to you because clearly facts are meaningless to you.​
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2013
  11. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    You ignore my mention of the Rockefeller effect on the price of kerosene. Note that kerosene was a critical commodity in that era. It was widely used by farmers & factory workers for both light & heat. Decreasing the price of it by almost 80% was a great benefit.

    It is silly for you to claim that the Homestead Act giving land to farmers was responsible for the USA economic engine. That engine was created by the so called Robber Barons using technology developed in the 1800's. By 1900, that engine greatly improved the standard of living of the typical farm & factory worker as indicated by the items offered for sale in Sears catalogs.

    Your following remark does not apply to farmers from the era I mentioned (1897-1909).
    By 1900, farmers were consumers of the items available in Sears catalogs. Else why where they offered for sale to farmers & factory workers small towns & rural regions? Your remarks are applicable to eras long gone by 1900.

    See if you can find a reprint of a Sears catalog from that era, it shows that the typical farm/factory worker was very well off by 1900. It was not the Homestead Act which caused that increase in standard of living from 1800 to 1900.

    You accuse me of cherry picking, while you make up your facts. Note that in the era I mentioned (1897-1909) The Sears catalog had been in existence for 9-20 years.

    You claim that it was not widely used by farmers until 1896. The item from Wiki indicates that it was first published in 1988 due to its being needed by farmers & other in small towns & rural areas.

    Are you actually old enough to have used an outhouse which did not have toilet paper? It was a common commodity prior to WW2, even in rural areas which still had out houses. The out houses I used in that era had toilet paper.

    You make assumptions about me that are not correct. Prior to WW2, I spent much time on my maternal grandfather’s farm, which was 30 miles north of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was a successful businessman & bought the farm to exile a son who was always in trouble.

    It had a lake & became a vacation spot for various members of the family. The original farm house had no plumbing or electricity. It was where we stayed when vacationing for skating, skiing, & sledding in the winter; Swimming & fishing in the summer. My uncle lived in a more modern house on the other side of the lake.

    While toilet paper was a common commodity when we were vacationing in rural Pennsylvania, some of the elderly locals remarked about the use of corn cobs in their youth. I suppose they were smart enough to use the ones from sweet corn, which is what people ate. The rougher types of corn were (probably still are) called horse corn. This use of corn cobs would never have occurred to me if not for the remarks from those elderly farmers.
  12. Peregrine Registered Member

    Please cut out the corn cob arguement.

    I realise it is a point of contention for standard of living in the era, but its getting out of control.
  13. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    Oh but I have addressed the issue, you just didn’t like the answer – either than or you just weren’t smart enough to get it. First, kerosene was not a critical commodity in that era. Kerosene was used for lighting and later for heating. People had alternatives to kerosene. Candles have been used for lighting for thousands of years. Kerosene was an alternative to whale oil lamps. Kerosene was not critical. There were plenty of substitutes, oil, coal and wood to mention a few.

    Two, I will repeat myself for the umpteenth time for your edification. Rockefeller didn’t drop kerosene prices out of the goodness of his heart. He did it to drive out the competition. After the competition was eliminated Rockefeller raised prices. That is what monopolists do. And you like to ignore that fact.

    What you are saying is analogous to the con man who comes to your door takes your money and makes you feel good until the Ponzi scheme falls apart.

    No that is you using a cop out. The Homestead Acts initiated the third wave of mass migration to the US of more than 25 million Europeans which more than doubled the population of the nation. It is stupid of you to claim that the Homestead Act and the resulting 25 million new Americans didn’t grow the economy and were not responsible for the US economic engine.

    And as pointed out to you many times before, monopolies were made illegal in 1890 with the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The Sears catalogue didn’t reach most farmers until the turn of the century, circa 1900. And the robber barons were largely a product of the Civil War (1861 -1865) when the US government spent huge sums on steel, railroads, and basic materials. Not surprisingly, those are the industries in which the robber barons became robber barons.

    I will repost this for your edification. Sears Archive says that.

    “The time was right for mail order merchandise. Fueled by the Homestead Act of 1862, America’s westward expansion followed the growth of the railroads. The postal system aided the mail order business by permitting the classification of mail order publications as aids in the dissemination of knowledge entitling these catalogs the postage rate of one cent per pound. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 also made distribution of the catalog economical.” - Sears Archives,

    And as I have mentioned several times during this conversation, monopolies were made illegal in 1890. So all of this stuff (e.g. Sears) occurred at a time when monopolies were illegal. It is also interesting to note that Rockefeller started his company in 1870 and a mere 20 years later, it was so popular congress passed a law making it illegal.

    You have a couple of things wrong; I didn’t say I used corncobs for toilet paper. I said you didn’t know your corn and you were wrong. You said corncobs would be preferable to paper specifically catalogue paper for use as toilet paper. And if you knew anything about field corn, you wouldn’t be making that claim, because the cobs are rough and sharp. It would be a cold day in Hell before I would stick a corncob up my derriere. And that is why Sear’s catalogues became the preferred source for toilet paper.

    Yeah I grew up on a farm and I was fortunate to have indoor plumbing. The outhouse on our farm was for emergencies or for convenience. However, there were and still are some folks in rural America who do not have indoor plumbing. I have cousins who didn’t have indoor plumbing until they grew up (about 40 years ago) and left home. Their mother didn’t have indoor plumbing until she moved into a retirement home about 10 years ago.

    We raised sweet corn for personal consumption and the field corn, hard corn or horse corn for sale and for cattle feed.
  14. Peregrine Registered Member


    Maybe change the question to "was it worth it?"

    Your question attempts to define "good" and "bad." That is rather difficult in itself. As Joe notes, they are called Robber Barons. So you're going to have a very tough time convincing everyone to ignore the robbery-barony stuff they did.

    The statement: "a good robber baron" is an oxymoron.

    I suggest we re-frame the arguement.
  15. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    The following is a common myth relating to the activities of so called monopopists.
    Note the bold part of the above. Try to find an actual citation or link which shows that Rockefeller raised kerosene prices after eliminating competition.The history of kerosene prices is available if you search for it.

    I must leave now & will try to find time later to address the other remarks in your recent post.
  16. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    The US government and nearly all others recognize that time-limited monopolies are a great benefit to societies. Why patent offices exist. That encourages technical advance that eventually benefit many. For example, after many years of trying many different processes that all failed, Hall invented a process for making aluminum that lower the cost per pound by factor of 200 and patented it in 1886 and with some financial backers founded Reduction Metals, that eventually evolved into Alcoa with Hall a major share holder. He never married, and gave much of his money away to socially useful organizaion, especially universities, like many very successful rich did back then, including J. D. Rockefeller.

    I studied physic in Rockefeller Hall at Cornell, a not very attractive red brick building where many were of stone or marble on the main quad. Local story, and I think true, was for the dedication of Rockefeller Hall, JD took one look at the building and tore up the million dollar check he had bought to the ceremony. He had intended that check to be used to provide world-class physics equipment for the building. It was already equipped well enough for teaching physics, with the funds saved from its frugal construction. - A million dollar misunderstanding about what the first grant was for.
  17. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    I suggest you start with:




    That said, there are cases were monopolies can be more efficient and effective than competitive markets and you don't have to look far to see them. Your electric company or natural gas companies are good examples. And as a result those monopolies are allowed to continue as monopolies, but are regulated to protect consumers from monopolistic pricing abuses and assure product quality.

    Oil companies are not more efficient or effective as monopolies, that is why they were not allowed to violate Sherman Anti-Trust Act and are not regulated like monopolies.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2013
  18. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    Peregrine: You make an excellent point.
    It is discussion not pertinent to the main issue. I am sorry I allowed myself to spend time debating this issue started by another poster.

    The following from previous Posts.

    You & others believe in the above myth relating to entrepreneurs.

    In previous Posts, I asked you for citations indicating that Rockefeller raised kerosene prices after driving out the competition. You have yet to provide a citation/Link. You might consider it to be common knowledge, but without a citation from a reputable source, it is still a myth. I repeat my request: Show a citation/link indicating that Rockefeller raised kerosene prices after driving out the competition.

    In response to the bolded (by me) part of your post, note the following. Especially note that the citation indicates that kerosene was a very important & widely used commodity. Can you find citations/links which indicate otherwise? I suspect that you merely posted some personal opinions relating to the importance of kerosene in the 19th century.

    From (Clicking on this URL did not work for me, but copying & pasting got me to the Web Site)
    Note from the above that kerosene was considered inexpensive at 30 cents per gallon. I was later reduced to 10 cents or less per gallon by Rockefeller.

    From the same source
    Those who hate (probably are jealous of) the Robber Barons just do not know enough about history to realize that by 1900, their activities (aided by technology) greatly improved the standard of living of the typical farmer & factory worker.
  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That is ridiculous. For almost the entire time between 1500 and 1900 the government restrictions on most corporations and all financial institutions were severe, the country's economy was dominated by slavery, then war, then huge government land use programs and public works extending over territory taken by State action and governed by public officials.

    The major initial beneficiaries of the cotton gin, for example, were the slave plantations in the South - and they mostly had their slaves make copies of the simple thing; meanwhile the railroads and so forth were working hand in glove with governments both local and national, with all that implies in the way of corruption and other "free market" interferences.
  20. Peregrine Registered Member


    From what I gather, you truely believe that Rockefeller was a 'good' robber baron... or just industrialist - sans hyperbole.

    The issue to be debated is the symptom of too much power under one roof and the potential effects.

    EVEN If, Rockefeller was a stellar individual whose moral values were incomparable, the issue remains of a business entity that holds too much power.

    In the event that Rockefeller died or retired, his business would be transferred to individuals who would not have held his moral fiber. It happens today. For instance, Ben and Jerrys Ice Cream. Great guys. Great Model. Great Values. They sold out to guys who IMMEDIATELY put high-fruc corn syrup in the ice cream for increased profits and they laid off alot of employees. Its the nature of valueless businessmen.

    My point is this: you are missing the larger issue to argue about something that while important, is insignificant in comparison to the consequences suffered by monopolism.

    I restate, change the question to: "was it worth it."

    Only within that framework can a worthwhile discussion occur.
  21. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Don't hold your breath for Joepistole to do this. Sometimes he claims to be quoting from a reputable source.* - Bloomberg in one case I asked him at least 15 times to provide over several months and in more than one thread to give the link he claimed to be quoting from. He only counter attacks me or my two sources stating differently from what he claimed to have read at Bloomberg, but never shuts me up by simply giving the link. Expect the same - That, with frequent use of LOL, as if that were a rebuttal is all you can reasonable expect.

    * If he does, be sure to open and check it. It may be "reworded" in Joe's "quote."
  22. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    LOL. spoken like the conspiracy wing nut you have become. You have been repeatedly challenged in that thread to support your claim and allegations that the Fed told Germany it would have to wait 5-7 years, depending on your post, in order to get it's gold on deposit at the New York Fed back. You went on to speculate the reason the Fed is delaying - something you have not proved- returning Germany's gold is because the Fed didn't have it. You went on to say the Fed had not audited its gold reserves for decades...which again was not true. The Fed just wrapped up a gold audit last year.

    The bottom line here is you have yet to produce a single credible source to support your bizarre conspiracy claims that the Fed is not returning Germany's gold immediately because it doesn't have Germany's gold. You have no credible proof the Fed told Germany it couldn't get its gold on deposit back immediately or even that Germany demanded it back immediately.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2013
  23. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    Agreed, history shows us that monopolies are not benevolent enterprises and they act in very predictable ways. They maximize profit at the expense of workers and consumers and they resist change. For the monopolist, it is a good as it gets so why change?

    This basically boils down to the latest move in libertarian circles to idolize robber barons which is kind of ironic. Libertarians are supposed to be supporters of free market competition. Monopolists are the antithesis of free market competition and the ultimate outcome of unregulated markets.

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