Mark D. Urbon
Southern New Hampshire University
This paper answers the questions from page 82 of our text with a focus on J.D. Rockefeller’s company “Standard Oil”
STANDARD OIL TRUST
Question 1: With reference to the levels and spheres of corporate power discussed in the chapter, how did the power of Standard Oil change society? Was this power exercised in keeping with the social contract of Rockefeller’s era?
Answer: Standard Oil changed society in reference to levels and spheres of corporate power in terms of economic power by its ability to buy out competitors and close down refineries and on a deeper level it provided stability in the prices of oil and also produced a consistent product that people could rely upon for safety reasons as competitor products were unreliable and often mistrusted. From a technological power stance Standard Oil heavily influenced the transportation rates to tip them in the company’s favor and further pressure competitors to spend more money for the same service. Cultural power was shown by standard oil to change society to in a positive manner allowing households to be lit up at night which is a direct result of more enriched lives.
Standard Oil’s power was not exercised in keeping with the social contract of that time. While there were not laws in effect at that time to say Rockefeller was behaving unethically it is obvious by the manner in which he managed to bankrupt and buy out competitors by tipping the market in his favor to arrive at the conclusion he did violate the social contract of his era. “These anticompetitive practices of rebates and predatory pricing forced competitors to sell their operations to Rockefeller, their only alternative to going out of business. It was if he was holding a gun to their heads”. (Epstein, 2008)
Question 4: In the Utilitarian sense of accomplishing the greatest good for the greatest number in society, was the Standard Oil Company a net plus or minus?
Answer: In a utilitarian sense of accomplishing the greatest good for the greatest number in society, I would say a net plus due to the following reasons: Standard oil produced a product that allowed people to light their houses on a consistent affordable basis with a product that was reliable in quality and provided safety. The charitable donations of JD Rockefeller were amazing and led to this being the lasting memory of his accomplishments. The Rockefeller Foundation is known for “funding an unknown scholar named Albert Einstein to accelerating the impact investing industry, the Rockefeller Foundation has a long tradition of enhancing the impact of individuals, institutions and organizations working to change the world” (Rockefeller Foundation, 2013). I agree that at the start and the height of Standard Oil’s success many people were negatively impacted by the company’s aggressive and relentless pursuit of being the best in the long run this company left the world a better place when it was dismantled by the government. Since then, the remaining companies have had a negative impact from an environmental point of view but the Rockefeller Foundation has a strict focus on developing climate change resilience. (Rockefeller Foundation, 2013)
“Revalue Ecosystems”. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-focus/revalue-ecosystems
“Our Focus”. (2013) Retrieved from: http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-focus
Epstein, Alex. (2008) “Vindicating Capitalism: The Real History of the Standard Oil Company” The Objective Standard Vol3, No. 2. Retrieved from: http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2008-summer/standard-oil-company.asp