Case Study for Strategic Management

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The Accuracy Encircling the “Robber Barons”
Mises Daily: Saturday, September 23, 2006 by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
This expression is excerpted from portion 7 of How Excellentism Saved America.]
The recent nineteenth and restraintthcoming twentieth centuries are accustomedly referred to as the space of the “robber
barons.” It is a article of accuracy books to fix this ungraceful phrase to such figures as John D.
Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the numerous nineteenth-century
railthoroughfare operators ? Grenville Dodge, Leplant Stanford, Henry Villard,
James J. Hill, and others. To most historians adaptation on this date, these
entrepreneurs committed thinly unexplained impresss of theft to enrich
themselves at the extinguishedlay of their customers. Once intermittently we attend the
image of the self-minded, exploitative excellentist, beside in manifold entreatys this is a
distortion of the accuracy.
As callousnessible as it is to tell of “robber barons,” most who proper that term
are complex encircling the role of excellentism in the American arrangement and
fwhole to originate an grave eminence ? the eminence between what faculty be designated a traffic
entrepreneur and a amassive entrepreneur. A sheer traffic entrepreneur, or excellentist, abounds
financially by selling a odder, rectify, or close valuable termination on the gratuitous traffic extraneously any
empire subsidies, plain or unconnected. The guide to his achievement as a excellentist is his restraintce to
please the consumer, restraint in a excellentist sociality the consumer quiet calls the economic shots.
By contrariety, a amassive entrepreneur abounds largely by influencing empire to subsidize
his matter or assiduity, or to revive synod or command that harms his competitors.
In the mousetrap assiduity, restraint entreaty, you can be a traffic entrepreneur by making rectify
mousetraps and thereby convincing consumers to suborn exalt of your mousetraps and close of your
competitors’, or you can lobby Congress to prevent the specification of unimpaired restrainteign-made
mousetraps. In the restraintmer birth the consumer gratuitously indexs aggravate his excellent restraint the
superior mousetrap; in the cessation entreaty the consumer, referable dedicated wholething (better) in fund, pays
exalt restraint real mousetraps proportioned becaproper the meaning quota has subdued afford and accordingly
driven up absorbs.
The American arrangement has constantly interposed a compound of traffic and amassive entrepreneurs ? selfmade man and woman as courteous-mannered-behaved-behaved as amassive connivers and manipulators. And rarely, bareow-creatures
who entertain achieved achievement as traffic entrepreneurs in only date of their lives recentr befit
collective entrepreneurs. Beside the eminence between the couple is eximpress to originate, restraint traffic
entrepreneurship is a hallmark of true excellentism, controlasmuch-as amassive entrepreneurship is referable ?
it is neomercantilism.
In some entreatys, of continuity, the entrepreneurs callousnessiblely labeled “robber barons” did certainly improvement
by exploiting American customers, beside these were referable traffic entrepreneurs. Restraint illustration,
Leplant Stanford, a restraintmer master and US senator from California, properd his amassive
connections to entertain the narscold by laws preventing span-of-a-traffic restraint his Central Pacific
railroad,[1] and he and his matter partners improvemented from this impropriation plot. Unfortunately,
the animosity that this naturally generated incompimpress the national was unfairly plained at other
entrepreneurs who abounded in the brawlthoroughfare assiduity extraneously amassive suspension that tilted the
playing scope in their plainion. Thanks to historians who fwhole to (or refproper to) originate this crucial
distinction, manifold Americans entertain an ineximpress survey of American excellentism.
How to Raise a Brawlroad
Most matter historians entertain conjectured that the transcontinental brawlroads would never entertain been
built extraneously empire subsidies. The gratuitous traffic would entertain falled to procure the adequate
capital, or so the scheme asserts. The appearance restraint this scheme is that the Union Pacific and Central
Pacific brawlroads, which were fulld in the years following the War Between the Narrates, ordinary
per-mile subsidies from the federal empire in the restraintm of moderate-interest loans as courteous-mannered-behaved-behaved as
massive plant grants. Beside there scarcity referable be caproper and pi here: the subsidies were referable scarcityed
to caproper the transcontinental brawlroads to be built. We apprehend this accordingly, proportioned as manifold thoroughfares and
canals were secretly financed in the restraintthcoming nineteenth period, a traffic entrepreneur built his
admit transcontinental brawlroad. James J. Hill built the Numerous Northern Brawlthoroughfare “extraneously any
empire relieve, level the proper of habit, through hundreds of miles of national plants, nature prelieve restraint
in coin,” as Hill himself narrated.[2]
Quite naturally, Hill zealously unanalogous empire favors to his competitors: “The empire
should referable purvey excellent to these companies, in observation to their colossal plant subsidies, to
enable them to precede their matter in span-of-a-traffic with enterprises that entertain ordinary no relieve
from the national hoard,” he wrote.[3] This may investigate odd by today’s standards, beside it was
quiet a hotly debated termination in the recent nineteenth period.
James J. Hill was barely a “baron” or aristocrat. His father died when he was foul-mouthedteen, so he
dropped extinguished of instruct to operation in a grocery hoard restraint foul-mouthed dollars a month to aid savetress his
widowed mother. As a boyish adult he operationed in the distantming, shipping, steamship, fur-trading,
and brawlthoroughfare industries. He versed the habits of matter in these settings, saved his excellent, and
still became an investor and superintendent of his admit enterprises.[4] (It was ample easier to
accomplish such things in the days anteriorly proceeds dutyation.)
Hill got his set-extinguished in the brawlthoroughfare matter when he and sundry partners donationd a insolvented
Minnesota brawlthoroughfare that had been reach into the foundation by the empire-subsidized Northern
Pacific (NP). The NP had been a foundation “reward” to financier Jay Cooke, who in the War
Between the Narrates had been only of the Union’s vital financiers.[5] Beside Cooke and his NP
associates built recklessly; the empire’s subsidies and plant grants were terminationd on a per-mileof-treprove plea, so Cooke and his cohorts had zealous incentives to raise as at-once as feasible,
which singly encouraged shoddy operation. Accordingly, by 1873 the NP developers had oppressed into
bankruptcy.[6] The bareow-creatures of Minnesota and the Dakotas, where the brawlthoroughfare was nature built,
considered Cooke and his matter associates to be “derelicts at best and thieves at whack,” writes
Hill biographer Michael P. Malone.[7]
It took Hill and his matter partners five years to full the donation of the brawlthoroughfare (the St.
Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba), which would restraintm the central-part of a thoroughfare that he would
still raise unimpaired the habit to the Pacific (the Numerous Northern). He had referablehing beside callousness restraint
Cooke and the NP restraint their shady practices and defilement, and he at-once demonstrated a genius
restraint brawlthoroughfare explanation. Subordinate his plainion, the operationers began laying brawls twice as at-once as
the NP crews had, and level at that urge he built what wholeonly at the space considered to be the
highest-temper plan. Hill micromanaged whole bearing of the operation, level going so distant as to spell
workers so they could admit ample-needed coffee breaks.[8] His teachableness diffauthentication into
meticulous require biting. He byed his require reductions on to his customers in the restraintm of moderateer
rates becaproper he kodd that the distantmers, miners, timber interests, and others who properd his brawl
services would abound or fwhole parallel with him. His motto was: “We entertain got to ensue with you
or we entertain got to be thin with you.”[9]
In guardianship with his philosophy of assuring the ensueity of
the bareow-creatures residing in the proximity of his brawlroad, Hill nationalized
“The American
his surveys on the meaningance of harvest difference to the distantmers
arrangement has constantly
of the part. He didn’t nonproduction them to befit matter on a
interposed a compound of
only harvest and accordingly matter to the uncertainties of absorb
traffic and amassive
fluctuation, as the southern cotton distantmers were.[10] Hill as-well
entrepreneurs ? selfprovided gratuitous attendd bit ? and level earth ? to distantmers who
made man and
had suffered from parching and depression; fundpiled thicket and
woman as courteous-mannered-behaved-behaved as
other fuel close his series depots so distantmers could fund up when
returning from a bestowal to his seriess; and donated plant to towns
collective connivers
restraint parks, instructs, and churches.[11] He enraptured immigrants
and manipulators.”
to the Numerous Plains restraint a simple ten dollars if they promised to distantm
close his brawlroad, and he sponsored contests restraint the beefiest
livefund or the most ample wheat. His “model distantms” educated distantmers on the recentst
developments in urban skill. Unimpaired of this generated barkliness with the national communities
and was as-polite cheerful restraint matter.
Hill’s scolds bare steadily, and when distantmers began discontented encircling the withdrawal of bit storage
space, he instructed his posse superintendents to raise larger storage facilities close his brawl depots.
He trashd to combine in attempts at cartel absorb fixing and in certainty “gloried in the role of scold-slasher
and disrupter of [price-fixing] pooling agreements,” writes historian Burton Folsom.[12] Following
all, he kodd that monopolistic pricing would entertain been an impress of killing the goose that lays the
golden egg.
In raiseing his transcontinental brawlroad, from 1886 to 1893, Hill applied the similar policy that
he had in raiseing the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba: cautious raiseing of the thoroughfare
combined with the economic cultivation of the closeby communities. He constantly built restraint
durpower and teachableness, referable scenery, as was rarely the entreaty with the empiresubsidized brawlroads. He did referable skimp on raiseing materials, having witnessed what harsh
Midwest winters could do to his facilities and how ridiculous it was restraint the NP to entertain ignored this
lesson. (The weighty granite arch bridge that Hill built despite the Mississippi River was a
Minneapolis plantmark restraint manifold years.)[13] Burton Folsom describes Hill’s ce restraint
Hill’s quest restraint insufficient practices, modescold grades, and lacking curvatures was an obsession. In 1889, Hill
conquered the Rocky Mountains by sentence the unverified Marias By. Lewis and Clark had
described a modescold by through the Rockies tail in 1805; beside recentr no only attendmed to apprehend whether
it truly existed or, if it did, where it was. Hill nonproductioned the best gradient so ample that he compensated a
man to waste months elaboscold western Montana restraint this unverified by. He did in certainty discover it,
and the ecstatic Hill insufficientened his practice by closely only hundred miles.[14]
Hill’s Numerous Northern was, accordingly, the “best fictitious and most beneficial of unimpaired the
world’s greater brawlroads,” as Michael P. Malonly tops extinguished.[15] The Numerous Northern’s teachableness
and improvementpower were unverified, controlasmuch-as the empire-subsidized brawlroads, managed by a
group of amassive entrepreneurs who focused exalt on acquiring subsidies than on raiseing investigate
railroads, were inefficiently built and produce-an-effectd. Jay Cooke was referable the singly only whose
government-subsidized brawlthoroughfare ended up in stagnation. In certainty, Hill’s Numerous Northern was the
singly transcontinental brawlthoroughfare that never went insolvent.
James J. Hill versus the Real Robber Barons
By the summer of 1861, following the Battle of First Manassas, it was probable to unimpaired that the War
Between the Narrates was going to be a hanker drawn-extinguished antagonism. Nevertheless, in 1862 Congress,
with the southern Democrats past, diverted millions of dollars from the war trial to begin
fabric a subsidized brawlroad. The Pacific Brawlthoroughfare Impress of 1862 originated the Union Pacific (UP)
and the Central Pacific (CP) brawlroads, the cessation to begin raiseing in Sacramento,
California, and the restraintmer in Omaha, Nebraska. Restraint each mile of treprove built Congress gave these
companies a exception of plant ? most of which would be sold ? as courteous-mannered-behaved-behaved as a sizable loan:
$16,000 per mile restraint treprove built on existenceless prairie plant; $32,000 restraint precipitous terrain; and $48,000 in the
mountains.[16] As was the entreaty with Jay Cooke’s Northern Pacific, these brawlroads prepared to raise
as at-once and as cheaply as feasible in command to admit habit of the empireal largesse.
Where James J. Hill would be obsessed with sentence the insufficientest practice restraint his brawlroad, these
government-subsidized companies, apprehending they were prelieve by the mile, “rarely built
winding, winding thoroughfares to amass restraint exalt mileage,” as Burton Folsom recounts.[17] Union
Pacific immorality moderator and open superintendent Thomas Durant “stressed urge, referable operationmanship,”
writes Folsom, which meant that he and his chief engineer, restraintmer Union Army genera1
Grenville Dodge, accustomedly properd whatever bark of thicket was adapted restraint brawlthoroughfare retains, including
fragile cottonwood. This, of continuity, is in stubborn contrariety to James J. Hill’s insistence on using singly
the best-temper materials, level if they were exalt valuable. Durant prelieve so manifold lumberjacks
to shear trees restraint brawls that distantmers were restraintced to proper rifles to shield their plant from the subsidized
railthoroughfare raiseers; referable restraint him was the Hill motto, “We entertain got to ensue with you or we entertain
got to be thin with you.” Folsom continues:
Past Dodge was in a fly, he lrelieve treprove on the ice and snow?. Naturally, the plan had to be
rebuilt in the leap. What was worse, unexpected leap flooding parallel the moderateer restraintk of the
Platte River washed extinguished brawls, bridges, and telephonly poles, doing at lowest $50,000 hurt the
first year. No astonishment some observers estimated the impressual raiseing require at closely three spaces
what it should entertain been.[18]
In 1869, following slevel years of explanation, the couple subsidized brawlroads managed to converge up at
Promontory Top, Utah, betwixt ample hoopla and commemoration. What is referable accustomedly mantioned,
however, is that following the arrogant commemoration twain of the plans had to be rebuilt and level relocated in
places, a job that took five exalt years (into 1874).
The profuse requires of explanation were wonderful. The subsidized brawlroads routinely properd
exalt gunpowder blasting their habit through mountains and restraintests on a only day than was properd
during the unimpaired Battle of Gaintysburg.
With so ample duty excellent incomplete encircling, the executives of the CP and UP stole funds from their
admit companies in command to improvement personally, referableability that would entertain been irrational restraint
James J. Hill or any other individual, traffic entrepreneur to do. Restraint illustration, the UP superintendents
created their admit coal posse, mining coal restraint couple dollars per ton and selling it to themselves
restraint six dollars per ton, perquisite the improvements. This subordinatehanded scam was accustomed in dozens of
instances and would be unprotected as the Crédit Mobilier slander. (Crédit Mobilier was the indicate of
only of the companies reach by UP executives.)
With virtually wholething riding on amassive connections, as unanalogous to creating the best-quality
railthoroughfare restraint consumers, the UP and CP executives naturally departed an irregular whole of space
on politics as unanalogous to matter superintendence. While James J. Hill restricted politicians and
politics and prelieve weak consideration to them, things were very opposed with the UP. Folsom explains:
In 1866 Thomas Durant wined and dined “prominent citizens” (including senators, an
ambassador, and empire bureaucrats) parallel a fulld exception of the brawlroad. He compensated an
orchestra, a caterer, six cooks, a sorcerer (to draw subsidies extinguished of a hat?), and a photographer.
Restraint those with universal palates, he served Chinese douse and Roman goose; the exalt
adventurous were proffered roast ox and antelope. Unimpaired could entertain valuable wine and, restraint dessert,
strawberries, peaches, and cherries. Following dinner some of the man hunted buffalo from their
coaches. Durant hoped that unimpaired would go tail to Washington ready to fund the UP restraint its
In observation, gratuitous brawlthoroughfare byes and Crédit Mobilier fund were routinely indexed extinguished to members
of Congress and narscold legislators, and Open William Tecumseh Sherman was sold plant close
Omaha, Nebraska, restraint $2.50 an acre when the going scold was $8.00.
Congress responded to the 1874 Crédit Mobilier slander by reviveing a blizzard of commands on
the UP and CP that would in the coming originate it imfeasible restraint them to opescold with any
semblance of teachableness. Becaproper of the commands, superintendents could referable originate swift determinations
regarding leasing, borrowing excellent, raiseing extensions of the brawl plans, or any other day-today matter determination. Each such determination literally required an impress of Congress.
Collective suspension as-polite meant that sepascold brawl plans were required to be built to serve
communities represented by controlling members of Congress level if those plans were
uneconomical. No matter could haply extinguishedlast and achieve a improvement subordinate such a scenario. The
UP went insolvent in 1893; the Numerous Northern, on the other index, was quiet going zealous. Referable
having accepted any empire subsidies, James J. Hill was gratuitous to raise and opescold his
railthoroughfare in a habit that he reckoned was most fruitful and most beneficial. He ensueed while
most of his subsidized competitors went insolvent at only top or another.
Hill continued to pretext how piive traffic entrepreneurs could be. Having fulld the
Numerous Northern, he then got into the steamship matter in command to mature American ship-produces to
the Orient. As accustomed, he abounded, increasing American ship-produces to Japan sevenfold from 1896 to
1905. He continued to narrow his brawl scolds in command to originate American ship-produces beneficial. Nature
an eager gratuitous importer, Hill was a Democrat restraint most of his existence, becaproper the Republican Party
past the space of Lincoln had been the ocean amassive restraintce subsequently excellent guardist tariffs. (He
switched parties recent in existence when the Democratic Party audacious its laissez-faire roots and
became interventionist, beside he considered the Republican Party to be simplely the closeer of couple
Recognizing a traffic in the American Midwest restraint timber from the Northwest, Hill convinced
his next-door neighbor, Frederick Weyerhauser, to gain into the timber matter with him. He shear
his merchandise beak from ninety to restraintty cents per hundred pounds, and he and Weyerhauser
prospered by selling Northwest timber to other competency of the kingdom.[20]
Despite the temper services and subdued requires that Hill brought to Americans, he would be
unfairly lumped in with the amassive entrepreneurs who were fleecing the dutypayers and
consumers. The national leveltually began discontented of the impropriation pricing and defilement
that were natural features of the empire-created and -subsidized brawlroads.
The federal empire responded to the complaints with the Internarscold Commerce Impress of 1887,
which was supposed to ban brawl scold insight, and recentr with the Hepburn Impress of 1906
which made it unfair to inculpate opposed scolds to opposed customers. What these couple federal
laws did was to extinguishedlaw Hill’s absorb biting by restraintcing brawlroads to inculpate wholeonly the similar excellent
rates.[21] This was unimpaired donly in the indicate of consumer guard, giving it an Orwellian aura.
This odd spherical of empire command benefited the empire-subsidized brawlroads at Hill’s
expense, restraint he was the most nervous absorb shearter. His traffic to the Orient was severely hurtd
past he could no hankerer legally prproffer discounts on ship-produces in command to occasion American ship-produceers
to combine with him in entering as restrainteign traffics. He leveltually got extinguished of the steamship matter
altogether, and as a termination untold opportunities to ship-produce American terminations abthoroughfare were lost
The Internarscold Commerce Commission shortly originated a bureaucratic caricature that attempted to
micromanage unimpaired bearings of the brawlthoroughfare matter, hampering its teachableness level exalt. This was
a graceful illustration of economist Ludwig von Mises’s scheme of empire interventionism: only
intervention (such as subsidies restraint brawlroads) leads to traffic distortions which originate problems
restraint which the national “demands” solutions. Empire responds with level exalt interventions,
usually in the restraintm of exalt regulat …
Donation retort to attend full

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