By YENA SEO, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (opinion)
The Captains of American Industry were presented with a crisis update from Congressman Joseph Gurney Cannon (R-IL) on a bill being presented in Congress that would assert federal regulation over interstate commerce. The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, which Gurney explained had enthusiastic, bipartisan support, will regulate the rapidly growing railroad industry and prevent the creation of monopolies.
The Wall Street Journal believes that the American government’s foray into federal oversight of the free market will set a dangerous precedent for years to come. Since its founding, the United States has functioned on the core ideals of democracy that prioritize individual liberties over state control. These ideals include free market capitalism and laissez-faire economics, which have allowed industries to thrive over the last century.
Gurney noted that the bill, whose sponsors he could not recall, would require that railroad rates when dealing with interstate commerce be “reasonable and just.” While the bill would not empower the federal government to fix certain rates, the bill mandates that railroads publicize their shipping rates to prevent against price discrimination against smaller markets. Additionally, the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 would establish a federal regulatory agency to investigate industries and corporations. While the need to ensure fair trade and the fear of big business are both understandable, the bill establishes a dangerous precedent and works against core American values.
When the United States was established, the Founding Fathers argued against King George III’s attempts to “harass our people and eat out their substance” in the Declaration of Independence. A fundamental ideal of the United States is that government should, for the most part, leave corporations and the free market alone. After all, the members of the Captains of American Industry are all entrepreneurs who rose to prominence due to the free market and our country’s economic empowerment and democratic values.
Andrew Carnegie, a steel tycoon and chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, raised an important note on the due process of corporations. This is an important issue that must be addressed by Congress if they are to pass this bill. While Congress members most certainly have the interests of their constitutions in mind, they must also ensure that the justice system of the United States also extends to the rights of corporations.
The idea of establishing a federal regulatory agency to monitor railroads and ensure best practices is not a bad idea, but it must be implemented with care by the U.S. Congress to ensure fairness for both private citizens and private companies. It is of the utmost importance for Representative Cannon and his fellow Congressmen to work with industrial tycoons. If they fail to do so, the Captains of American Industry must band together to protect their own corporations, but also to stand up for American, free market values.
Representative Joseph Gurney Cannon (R-IL) addresses the Captains of American Industry on the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.