Which disgustingly rich “robber baron” single-handedly saved all the whales?

Eventually I want to revisit the reputation of those horrid men who built the American economy at the end of the 1900s. They gave us massive breakthroughs in economic development.

Until I can write some extended articles, I’ll accumulate tidbits as I go.

Got to thinking about this when Bruce Oksol of Million Dollar Way pointed out

…that Rockefeller and Standard Oil single-handedly saved the whales from extinction

He mentioned there was a Forbes article on this. With one Google search I found Warren Meyer talking about The Man Who Saved the Whales.

The best source of illumination in the late 1900s was whale oil. As a result whales were headed toward extinction. Rockefeller gave us kerosene and at far lower price than whale oil.

The result?

He made a fortune. And whales survived.

Walter Williams points out in American Contempt for Liberty that the horrible, terrible, evil, disgusting, monopolistic J. D. Rockefeller (okay, Prof Williams didn’t use those adjectives) was so ruthless in his marketing that he

… drove kerosene prices down from 58 cents a gallon in 1860 to 7 cents in 1900.

He may have made an incredible fortune for himself but he radically improved the life of every person alive on the planet at the same time. Oh, he also prevented the extinction of all whales on the planet.

You would think that dropping the market price of a consumer product by 88% and saving all the whales would be a thing to be long celebrated.

Mr. Meyer also points out that Cornelius Vanderbilt made his first money by breaking the steamship monopoly. Previously contracts were awarded by governments to what we would today call crony capitalists. They charged whatever they wanted.

Vanderbilt came in with a competing line and drove prices down. Cities were begging him to set up a stop at their shores because they knew how much their economy would improve.

Those men and others made a fortune, but they did it by providing far more value to the customers than what they made.

As Prof. Williams points out:

Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering, and enslaving their fellow man. With the rise of capitalism, it became possible to amass great wealth by serving and pleasing one’s fellow man.

Making a fortune by serving the needs of other people is highly moral. Economic freedom and political freedom are the moral approach.

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