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To What Extent Did The Government Adhere To The Principles Of Laissez Faire From 1865 To 1900

1969 words - 8 pages

Laissez faire, meaning "let them do," is a governmental policy i which there is little government intervention. A french philosopher and the finance minister under King Louis XIV's reign, Jean Baptiste Colbert is said to be the first person to disseminate the principles of laissez faire.
From 1865 to 1900, the federal government of the United States moderately adopted the laissez faire system. At first, the government did practice laissez faire for it did little except its necessary duties. However, by the 1870's it was violating laissez faire little by little with the small restrictions on railroads and companies. As time progressed, the federal government abandoned laissez faire, for it passed the Interstate Commerce Act and the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Many Industrialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries endorsed the laissez faire system, for the lack of government control that it stood for allowed industrialists to manipulate industry and gain power without any opposition. Amasa Walker summarized their thoughts, regarding government, with the sentence, "Economically, it will ever remain true, that the government is best which governs least." In addition, Daniel Knowlton stated, "It is better always to leave individual enterprise to do most that is to be done in the country." For one, big business owners organized trusts by joining with other companies to form monopolies. Without competition or governmental interference, monopolists could ultimately control the production, transportation, and distribution of a consolidation. In 1892, James B. Weaver described the trust system in A Call to Action: An Interpretation of the Great Uprising. Its Source and Causes. He stated:
It is clear that trusts are contrary to public policy and hence in conflict with the Common Law. They are monopolies organized to destroy competition and restrain trade. . . . Once they secure control of a given line of business, they are master of the situation and can dictate to the two great classes with which they deal-the producer of the raw material and the consumer of the finished product. They limit the price of the raw material so as to impoverish the producer, drive him to a single market, numbers of persons who had before been engaged in a meritorious calling and finally. . . they increase the price to the consumer. . . . The main weapons of the trust are threats, intimidation, bribery, fraud, wreck, and pillage.
Weaver was not the only one who emphasized the arbitrary power that the monopolists exercised. In 1889, Joseph Keppler published a political cartoon, named "Bosses of the Senate." In the top, left corner of the cartoon is a door labeled "Peoples' Entrance." It is closed off to illustrate the lack of public representation and opinion. At the opposite side of the cartoon is a door labeled "Entrance for Monopolists." It is wide open, allowing the trusts to flood into the chamber. The trusts are depicted by over-sized money bags with dollar signs and...

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