The Cotton Kings: Capitalism and Corruption in Turn-of-the-Century New York and New Orleans

Hardcover | December 17, 2015

byBruce E. Baker, Barbara Hahn

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"In the second decade of the twenty-first century, many Americans feel they are subject to economic forces beyond their control. Some critics of today's economy compare it to the rampant inequality of the late nineteenth century, when robber barons manipulated the economy to their own benefit. Others object to the remedies that were applied in the early twentieth century, insisting that markets work best when governed least. In The Cotton Kings, historians Bruce E. Baker and Barbara Hahn relate a colorful account of an economic drama with striking parallels to contemporary American economic debates. At the turn of the twentieth century, dishonest cotton brokers used bad information to lower prices on the futures market, impoverishing millions of farmers. To fight this corruption, a small group of brokers sought to control the price of cotton on unregulated exchanges in New York and New Orleans. They triumphed, cornering the world market in cotton and raising its price for years. However, the structural problems of self-regulation by market participants continued to threaten the cotton trade until eventually political pressure inspired federal regulation. In the form of the Cotton Futures Act of 1914, the federal government stamped out corruption on the exchanges, helping millions of farmers and textile manufacturers. Joining a gripping narrative with the controversial argument that markets work better when placed under federal regulation, The Cotton Kings brings to light a rarely told story that speaks directly to contemporary conflicts between free markets and regulation"--"The Cotton Kings relates a rip-roaring drama of competition in the marketplace and reveals the damage markets can cause when they do not work properly. It also explains how they can be fixed through careful regulation. At the turn of the twentieth century, cotton was still the major agricultural product of the American South and an important commodity for world industry. Key to marketing cotton were futures contracts, traded at exchanges in New York and New Orleans. Futures contracts had the potential to hedge risk and reduce price volatility, but only if the markets in which they were traded worked properly. Increasing corruption on the powerful New York Cotton Exchange pushed prices steadily downwards in the 1890s, impoverishing millions of cotton farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture tried to solve the problem with better crop predictions and market information, shared equally and simultaneously with all participants, but these efforts failed. To fight the cotton market's corruption, cotton brokers in New Orleans, led by William P. Brown and Frank Hayne, began quietly to assemble resources. They triumphed in the summer of 1903, when they cornered the world market in cotton and raised its price to reflect the reality of increasing demand and struggling supply. The brokers' success pushed up the price of cotton for the next ten years. However, the structural problems of self-regulation by market participants still threatened the cotton trade. More corruption at the New York Cotton Exchange appeared, until eventually political pressure inspired the Cotton Futures Act of 1914, the federal government's first successful regulation of a financial derivative"--

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"In the second decade of the twenty-first century, many Americans feel they are subject to economic forces beyond their control. Some critics of today's economy compare it to the rampant inequality of the late nineteenth century, when robber barons manipulated the economy to their own benefit. Others object to the remedies that were ap...

Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9.29 × 6.42 × 0.01 inPublished:December 17, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190211652

ISBN - 13:9780190211653

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