Journalist Henry D. Lloyd Warns against an Age of Combination

The growing power of corporations, monopolies, and other combinations of power alarmed many Americans. Among them was Henry D. Lloyd, a journalist known for his articles about John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. In 1884, Lloyd wrote "Lords of Industry," an article warning of the dangers of what he called the coming "age of combination."

On the theory of "too much of everything" our industries, from railroads to working-men, are being organized to prevent milk, nails, lumber, freights, labor, soothing syrup, and all these other things, from becoming too cheap. The majority have never yet been able to buy enough of anything. The minority have too much of everything to sell. Seeds of social trouble germinate fast in such conditions. Society is letting these combinations become institutions without compelling them to adjust their charges to the cost of production, which used to be the universal rule of price. Our laws and commissions to regulate the railroads are but toddling steps in a path in which we need to walk like men. The change from competition to combination is nothing less than one of those revolutions which march through history with giant strides. It is not likely that this revolution will go backward.

Man, the only animal which forgets, has already in a century or two forgotten that the freedom, . . . which he has enjoyed for a brief interval, has been unknown in most of the history of our race, and in all the history of most races. . . .

We have had an era of material inventions. We now need a renaissance of moral inventions, contrivances to tap the vast currents of moral magnetism flowing uncaught over the face of society. Morals and values rise and fall together. If our combinations have no morals, they can have no values. If the tendency to combination is irresistible, control of it is imperative. Monopoly and anti-monopoly . . . represent the two great tendencies of our time: monopoly, the tendency to combination; anti-monopoly, the demand for social control of it. As the man is bent toward business or patriotism, he will negotiate combinations or agitate for laws to regulate them. The first is capitalistic, the second is social. The first, industrial; the second, moral. The first promotes wealth; the second, citizenship. . . . Our young men can no longer go west; they must go up or down. Not new land, but new virtue must be the outlet for the future. . . . We cannot hereafter, as in the past, recover freedom by going to the prairies; we must find it in the society of the good. In the presence of great combinations, in all departments of life, the moralist and patriot have work to do of a significance never before approached.