The Men Who Built America

The History Channel recently aired a four-part miniseries on entrepreneurs who built massive empires in America. Essentially, these entrepreneurs were responsible for making America great. Along with some added economic commentary, T. Kurt Jaros presents his own series on these men who built America.

Cornelius Vanderbilt

The History Channel series begins by presenting Cornelius Vanderbilt, or “Commodore Vanderbilt” as he was commonly called. Vanderbilt began his entrepreneurial experience as a teenage boy transporting cargo around the New York harbor. From there he went on to start his own steamboat business, which became quite successful. Then the Commodore shifted his focus to building a railroad empire.

Cornelius Vanderbilt, from Steamboats to Steamships

Vanderbilt again proved that the market works better than government subsidies. Fulton, Collins and the governments actually stalled progress, because the monopolies stifled technological innovation, which when integrated cuts costs for consumers like you and me. If the past is prologue, we should take a lesson from those who practiced fair play, rather than seeking special government privileges.

Cornelius Vanderbilt and Crony Capitalism

But the real culprits were the companies that were monopolizing the market for transporting people and mail to the West Coast. According to Burton Folsom, “Their subsidies gave them an unfair advantage over all competition, and they used this advantage to charge monopoly rates to passengers.” Vanderbilt was the one who dislodged the monopolies by offering both cheaper travel and faster travel time to consumers, all without the help of taxpayer dollars. Imagine what other entrepreneurs could have accomplished sooner had taxpayer dollars not been used at all!

John D. Rockefeller

Rockefeller is most known for bringing oil to the homes of American families at an affordable cost between the 1860s and 1910. Coming from very humble beginnings, Rockefeller wanted to save consumers money. He once wrote to a partner, “Let the good work go on. We must ever remember we are refining oil for the poor man and he must have it cheap and good.”

John D. Rockefeller’s Faith

Rockefeller serves as a great example of what it means to be a good steward of what God has given us. He also is a reminder to abide by those seemingly counterintuitive instructions to rest on the Sabbath and to give so that we might have more.

 

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