A History of American Monopolies (2023)

Monopolies came to colonial America long before the birth of the United States. The large-scale public works needed to make the New World hospitablethe old worldImmigrants needed big companies to run them.

These companies received exclusive contracts from the colonial governors. Even after the American Revolution, many colonial remnants continued to function due to treaties and the land they owned.

AMonopolyIt is characterized by a lack of competition, which tends to result in higher prices and inferior products. However, the great economic power of the monopolies also has positive consequences for the US.

Main Conclusions

  • Monopolies control most or all of the market share in an industry or sector.
  • America's largest monopolies were created in a century, and one lasted more than a century.
  • The Sherman Antitrust Act prohibited trust trusts and mergers that placed "unreasonable" restrictions on interstate and international markets.
  • The focus of modern monopoly concerns revolves around Internet companies, including Amazon, Meta, and Alphabet.


A history of American monopolies

sherman hammer

oSherman's cartel lawwas passed in 1890 in response to public outcryprice fixingmonopoly abuse.

This law prohibited combinations of trusts and monopolies that placed "unreasonable" restrictions on interstate transactions andinternational trade🇧🇷 The law was a hammer that gave the federal government the power to break large corporations into smaller pieces.

Despite the passage of this law, many national monopolies were formed over the next 50 years. At the same time, it was used to attack various monopolies, with varying degrees of success. The general tendency seems to have been to distinguish between good monopolies and bad monopolies.

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One example is International Harvester, which made cheap farm equipment for a largely agricultural nation and was therefore considered untouchable lest farmers rebel. American Tobacco, on the other hand, was suspected of charging a more than fair price for cigarettes, which were then touted as a cure for everything from asthma to menstrual cramps. Consequently, American Tobacco became a victim of the government's wrath and was dissolved in 1911.

the natural monopoly

The oil industry has been vulnerable to what is callednatural monopolydue to the rarity of the products it produces.John D Rockefeller, the founder and chairman of Standard Oil, and his partners took advantage of both the scarcity of oil and the revenue it generated to establish a monopoly.

The questionable business practices and tactics used by Rockefeller in the creation of Standard OilEnroncrowd blushes. But the finished product was not nearly as bad for the economy or the environment as the industry was before Rockefeller monopolized it.

In the early days of the oil industry, many competing oil companies rushed to find a well and drilled indiscriminately, pumping the waste into rivers or directly into the ground rather than worrying about its proper disposal. They cut costs by using poor quality pipes that were prone to leaks.

At that time, Standard Oil had grabbed 90% of the shares.beer productionand distribution in the United States also learned how to make money from their industrial waste, Vaseline being one of the recently developed products.

The advantages of having a monopoly like Standard Oil in the country only became apparent after it built a national oil distribution infrastructure to avoid reliance on trains and their notoriously fluctuating costs.

Standard Oil's size enabled it to undertake projects that smaller competitors could never have attempted. In that sense, it was as useful as state-regulated public services in turning America into a developed nation.

Despite the eventual dissolution of Standard Oil in 1911, the government recognized that a monopoly could build reliable infrastructure and offer profitable services to a broader base of consumers than competing companies. This lesson influenced his decision to let AT&T's monopoly last until 1982.

Of course, if a monopoly can consistently deliver a quality product at a reasonable price, especially when the upfront costs to competitors are astronomical, the government can allow it, as long as it can be regulated to protect consumers.

The limits of a monopoly

Andrew Carnegie had gone a long way to create a monopoly in the steel industry.J.P. Morganbought his steel mill and merged it with USA Steel to create a monster corporation approaching the size of Standard Oil.

US steel has done very little with the resources at its disposal, which may illustrate this.restrictionsa company that has an owner with a unique vision.

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The company survived the Sherman Act court battle and lobbied the government to protect it.Recipeto help you compete internationally.

US Steel then controlled about 60% of steel production, but competing companies were hungrier, more innovative, and more efficient. Finally, US steel stagnated as smaller companies consumed more and moremarket share.

Clayton improves Sherman's aim

After the collapse of the sugar, tobacco, oil and meatpacking monopolies, the big corporations did not know where to turn. There were no clear guidelines on what constituted monopolistic business practices.

The founders and management of the so-called "evil monopolies" were furious at International Harvester's approach. They argued that the Sherman Act made no concessions to any particular company or product and that its application should be universal, not a lightning bolt that hits select companies.

In response, the Clayton Act was introduced in 1914.He provided some specific examples of practices that would attract Sherman's hammer. Among them were affiliated boards, distribution cooperatives, and certainfusions and acquisitionssignificantly reduce competition in a market.

The Clayton Act was followed by a series of other laws that required government review before any major mergers or acquisitions were completed.

Monopolies often arise when new products or services emerge, such as oil, telephone service, computer software, and now social media.

These innovations gave companies a bit of a clearer picture of what not to do, but they did little to curb the arbitrariness of antitrust actions. Major League Baseball was even scrutinized in the 1920s, but they escaped by stating that it was a sport, not a business, and therefore not classified as interstate commerce.

End of an era of monopoly?

A History of American Monopolies (1)

The last great American monopolies were created in a century, and one lasted more than a century. Others were very short-lived and some are still in operation today.

(Video) The Monopolization of America | Robert Reich


AT&T Inc. (T), a government-backed monopoly, was also an essential public service. As with Standard Oil, AT&T's monopoly has made the industry more efficient. She was not to blame for price fixing, but for the possibility of price fixing.

The dissolution of AT&T in the 1980s gave rise to the regional Baby Bells. Over time, many of the Baby Bells began to merge and increase in size to serve a larger area.

AT&T's dissolution may have resulted in a sharp drop in service quality and even higher prices for many customers. But that's a long time ago, and the Baby Bell offspring is finding a natural footing in the marketplace without ever calling on Sherman's hammer again.


Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) was never dissolved, although it lost its antitrust case.

The case against Microsoft centered on whether Microsoft abused its position as essentially a so-called non-coercive monopoly. An unenforceable monopoly exists because brand loyalty and consumer apathy prevent people from seeking an alternative.

USA Due to innovative domestic and international competition, steel could not dominate the market indefinitely. So does Microsoft, at least in some market segments.

Microsoft's monopoly eroded somewhat as competing operating systems gained ground and competing software, particularly open source software, threatened the packaged business model on which Microsoft was built. It also failed to dominate the internet over time.war two browsers🇧🇷 Therefore, the cartel's sentence now seems irrelevant.

Meta (formerly Facebook)

In today's world, tech companies are the new powerhouses, none like the metaplatforms, formerly Facebook (META), which many see as a modern monopoly. In December 2020 theFederal Trade Commission(FTC) sued the company, alleging that it maintained its monopoly on social media through anti-competitive behavior.

The FTC alleged that Meta did so by acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp, two of the largest social networks, as well as imposing anti-competitive terms on software developers.

The five most used social media platforms worldwide as of January 2021 are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.Meta owns four of those five platforms, or 80%. (Google owns YouTube.)

This is a significant level of control over how personal information is shared and advertising attribution. Meta doesn't really have that much competition.

The FTC has called for Meta's dissolution through the sale of WhatsApp and Instagram, but whether that will be successful remains to be seen.

A corporate monopoly is a company that dominates its sector or industry, which means that it controls most of the market share for its goods or services, has little or no competition, and its consumers have no real substitute for the goods or services. provided by the company.

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What is a monopoly in US history?

Monopolies in American history are large corporations that controlled an industry or sector, giving them the ability to control the prices of the goods and services they provided.

Many monopolies are considered good monopolies because they bring efficiency to some markets without taking advantage of consumers. Others are considered bad monopolies because they bring no real benefit to the market and stifle fair competition.

Why are monopolies bad?

Monopolies are bad because they control the market in which they do business, which means they have no competitors. When a company has no competitors, consumers have no choice but to buy from the monopoly. The Company has no control over its power to increase prices or decrease the quality of its products or services.

Monopolies also lead to a lack of innovation. There is little incentive to find new ways to make better products.

Is Amazon a monopoly?

Amazon's share of online retail sales in the US is estimated at 40%, and even that number may be an underestimate. However, there are many retail competitors for consumers to choose from.

In other areas of its expanding business, Amazon (AMZN) can be subject to examination. It can be considered a monopoly due to its significant control over outside vendors and suppliers. If they want to sell their products, they have no choice but to sell them on Amazon's global platform.


Globalization and the maturing world economy have prompted calls to repeal antitrust laws. In the early 1900s, anyone who claimed that the government did not need a hammer to break up big corporations was viewed with suspicion.


Over the years, these calls have come from the likes of economist Milton Friedman, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and everyday consumers.

But if the history of government and business is any indication, the government is more likely to expand the reach and power of antitrust laws than to give up such a useful weapon.


1. Monopolies and Anti-Competitive Markets: Crash Course Economics #25
2. Why the US must break the grip of huge monopolies | Ganesh Sitaraman | Big Think
(Big Think)
3. The surprising history behind the board game "Monopoly"
(CBS Mornings)
4. The Surprising History Behind Monopoly | Doha Debates
(Doha Debates)
5. History of America S02 E06 | Capitalist Monopoly in America | Faisal Warraich
(Dekho Suno Jano)
6. Dennis Kucinich and Michael Hudson on the Anatomy of Bank Failures


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