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Bending, Breaking, and Challenging the Law: Moving Against the Grain - Accurate Essays

Bending, Breaking, and Challenging the Law: Moving Against the Grain





Bending, Breaking, and Challenging the Law: Moving Against the Grain

What was the Munn vs. Illinois case about? What insight does it provide into the stresses and strains caused by the rise of big business?

Munn vs. Illinois (1877) was a historic case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that private property that was used for public good would be regulated by the government. Munn and Scott were partners who owned a large Chicago warehouse firm. In 1876, this case was brought against Munn by the Granger Movement, an association of farmers, for alleged abuse of the control that his company held over grain warehouses and railroads. The company was found guilty of charging farmers exorbitant prices, employed cunning and deceitful business practices.

The importance of this ruling is that it gave the state permission to regulate privately held utilities that operate in the interest of the public. Therefore in his ruling Chief Justice Morrison Remick Waite stated that the state had the power to set the maximum rates that a private company could charge the public. Therefore, in this case the state had the right to determine the rates that Munn’s firm charged the public for the storage and transportation of goods. This case shows that an increase in capitalism results in the transfer of public utilities from the state to private owners and corporations. Private firms may sometimes exploit the public in order to maximize their profits and in such a case, the state needs to intervene and regulate the utility.

What interests were harmed by pollution from the oil refineries Newtown Creek and other parts of New York City? How did they react?

They have all contributed to the severe degradation of the environment, although the most severe pollution has come from the oil industries, which over the years have disposed huge quantities of coke residue into the surroundings. The residents of this area have been the most affected by the pollution. The industries’ irresponsible disposal of waste led to pungent stenches and massive environmental pollution. The residents of the areas around Newtown Creek such as Brooklyn, Queens and the east side of Manhattan were the most affected; they had to keep their windows shut to lock out the pungent acid-sludge fumes and when the fumes became intolerable, they were forced to move out of their neighborhoods till the stench subsided. The water of Newtown Creek is heavily contaminated with industrial waste, sewage, coke residue and oil spills; that turned the water black. This made life intolerable.

Those who worked in the factories, businessmen and residents of the area were the affected parties and Public protest over the blatant pollution began at around 1881, when Harper’s Weekly revealed the extent of the pollution that had been caused by the industries. By that time, the water was so polluted that it could not even support fish or plant-life. In 1891, a lobby group calling itself the Brooklyn Smelling Committee listed Newtown Creek as the most foul-smelling area in the whole of New York. Despite the protests, the pollution did not stop because by then the entire Newtown Creek was heavily industrialized. The industries did not start abiding by the government regulations on pollution and contamination until around 1972. Even then, it was already too late to correct the situation, as the pollution now covered over approximately 40 acres. In 1990, the companies that had caused the pollution were given legal orders to clean up their mess. Some companies obeyed this order while some still dump their wastes into the Creek often.

My reaction?

The level of pollution in Newtown Creek is staggering and more needs to be done to clean up Newton Creek and to find alternative waste disposal solutions for the hundreds of industries along the Newtown Creek stretch. Heavier penalties should also be imposed on companies that dispose of their wastes irresponsibly.

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