PRESENTING: The 'There Will Be Blood' Chart

oil rig library of congress

Photo: Library of Congress

Paul Thomas Anderson’s film “There Will Be Blood,” which was nominated for Best Picture in 2008, tells the story of a seemingly possessed oil man who forces a small-time landowner to sell his lucrative plot in his quest to build a business empire at the turn of the 20th century.Today, the St. Louis Federal Reserve released a chart illustrating what the “There Will Be Blood” economy looked like. 

It shows the number of manufacturing and mining firms that “disappeared” as a result of being bought out or merged with another company.

Around 1900, the time period in the movie, there was suddenly an enormous surge in vanishing firms.

blood fred

Photo: FRED

What gives?

Cambridge University Law Professor Brian Cheffins has studied this period.

In 2002, he put out a paper explaining the aggressive business practices portrayed in the film were very real, and largely explain the huge merger boom:

“For industrialists who were in despair as a result of “cutthroat” competition, economic hardship served to displace, at least to some degree, the bias in favour of independence and fostered a willingness to contemplate selling out. With manufacturers being keen to “get in out of the rain” attention shifted from anticompetitive alliances to a different method for imposing discipline on market forces, namely merging under a single corporate roof. One way a horizontal consolidation could be structured was a complete “fusion” where the assets of former competitors were brought under the direct ownership of a pure operating company.”

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