The Trump administration has a clear economic objective: deregulate. Loosening regulations on industries, the White House believes, will lead to faster growth and more jobs. This is the stated reason for pulling the U.S. from the international climate accord, and the economic justification for seeking to rescind the EPA Clean Power Plan that limits carbon emissions from plants.
But an examination of history shows that government regulations are not always harmful to industry; they often help business. Indeed, government regulation is as central to the growth of the American economy as markets and dollars.
Robber barons and the Progressive Era
The late 19th century in the United States was the heyday of robber barons – John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould and many others – who secured exorbitant wealth by building unregulated monopolies. They controlled the country’s oil, steel and railroads, and they used their wealth to bankrupt competitors, buy off politicians and fleece consumers. They manipulated a growing market economy that had weak rules and even weaker legal enforcement.
The progressive movement of the early 20th century took aim at the robber barons, calling upon government to regulate their activities in the interest of the public welfare. …read more