During the Gilded Age, so-called “captains of industry” such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan led an industrial revolution that transformed the nation with technological innovation, creating for Americans unparalleled improvements in the average standard of living and amassing great personal fortunes in the process. The spectacular success—and enormous power—of these newly minted tycoons earned them the sobriquet “Robber Baron,” even as their ruthless business tactics, such as Rockefeller’s cartelization of the oil industry through trusts, fostered new laws to regulate anti-competitive business practices, notably the 1890 Sherman Act. These measures are called “antitrust” laws, an often-forgotten tribute to the dynastic Standard Oil Trust, which at its peak controlled the refining of 90 to 95 percent of all oil produced in the United States.
On Election Day, the American people made a resounding call to “drain the swamp” that is modern Washington. Yet on Capitol Hill, we seem mired in the same cycle of complacency: The game hasn’t changed, and the players remain the same. Thankfully, there’s a solution available that, while stymied by the permanent political class, enjoys broad public support: congressional term limits.