Henrietta Larson: A Scholar for the Ages (her business histories are among the greatest energy tomes)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- September 20, 2018 2 Comments

“What we have done is … to put business in its broader political and cultural setting…. We are not out to defend business, but to try to do an impartial, scholarly investigation of an important American institution.”

 – Henrietta Larson (1894–1983), Harvard business historian

For many decades, corporate histories were dominated by simplistic notions of big-is-bad and capitalist exploitation. Yes, Ida Tarbell documented many innovations and economies from John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust, but she jumped to examples to paint the Standard Trust as ultimately evil in its exploitation of competitors.

Much “Robber Baron” history followed in the decades after Tarbell, failing to comprehend the advantages of industrialization and to differentiate free-market entrepreneurship on the one hand from corporate/government cronyism on the other. As Harvard business historian Thomas McCraw would later explain:

Without the benefit of a vocabulary that distinguished conceptually between center and peripheral firms, productive and allocative efficiency, vertical and horizontal integration, economies of scale and transaction cost, these observers had only their personal sensibilities and political ideologies to guide them.

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4Q-2012: Continued Progress at MasterResource

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- January 18, 2013 1 Comment

MasterResource, which turned four last month, recorded its best quarter in history with 116,877 views, a 20 percent increase from 4Q-2011. We reached as high as #7 of 9,984 “green blogs” tracked by Technorati in the quarter and currently stand at #40.

With one in-depth post per workday, with occasional weekend fare, MasterResource is the leading voice for free-market, science-of-liberty thought in energy and related environmental issues.

MasterResource features many different writers, some academics, some think-tank analysts, and others citizen-activists.  Some areas of emphasis and impact may be mentioned.

Inconvenient Truths of Industrial Wind

Literally dozens of our writers have made MasterResource a leader of the windpower educational movement.  Turning wind into electricity is wholly government-enabled; even NIMBYSM that might be criticized in other contexts is justified given that government mandates and special, outsized subsidies enables the rural invasion of wind machinery.

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Capitalism Vindicated: The Real History of Standard Oil (Part V: Lessons)

By -- September 2, 2011 2 Comments

[Editor Note: This five-part series by Mr. Epstein, originally published in The Objective Standard, revisits the Standard Oil Trust controversy in this the 100th anniversary of the breakup of the Trust. Part I reviewed the flawed textbook interpretation of Rockefeller’s accomplishment; Part II sketched the rise of Standard Oil and defended the free-market practice of rebating. Part III examined the missing context of Standard Oil’s rise to dominance. Part IV was on Standard’s pioneering innovations as a big business.]

Given the tenuous, voluntary nature of Standard’s market share, it was inevitable that at some point the market would expand beyond its reach. Given the explosion of possibilities in the oil industry—the rise of the automobile and the need for gasoline, the discovery of oil in all corners of the planet—not even Standard Oil could be the best at everything.

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The Real History of the Standard Oil Company (Part IV: Pioneering in Big Business)

By -- September 1, 2011 4 Comments

[Editor Note: This five-part series by Mr. Epstein, originally published in The Objective Standard, revisits the Standard Oil Trust controversy on this the 100th anniversary of the breakup of the Trust. Part I reviewed the flawed textbook interpretation of Rockefeller’s accomplishment; Part II sketched the rise of Standard Oil and defended the free-market practice of rebating. Part III examined the missing context of Standard Oil’s rise to dominance.

Part V tomorrow examines the unlearned lessons of the John D. Rockefeller/Standard Oil saga.

If antitrust theory was correct, Standard’s “control” of 90 percent of the oil refining market, should have made the 1880s its easiest, least-challenging decade—one in which it could coast, pick off competitor fleas with ease, and raise prices into the stratosphere.

In fact, the company struggled mightily in that decade to lower its prices even more—while facing its greatest competitive challenges (foreign and domestic), as well as a bedeviling technological challenge.

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Vindicating Capitalism: The Real History of the Standard Oil Company (Part III: The Missing Context of Standard’s Rise to Supremacy)

By -- August 31, 2011 1 Comment Continue Reading

The Real History of the Standard Oil Company (Part II: The Phenom)

By -- August 30, 2011 4 Comments Continue Reading

Vindicating Capitalism: The Real History of the Standard Oil Company (Part I: The Fallacious Textbook Story)

By -- August 29, 2011 15 Comments Continue Reading

Energy at the Speed of Thought (Part 3: How Oil Rose to Prominence)

By -- December 22, 2010 3 Comments Continue Reading