Captains Of American Industry, 1887

Dear Delegates,

Welcome to HNMUN 2017, and to the cutthroat world of corporate competition that is late nineteenth-century America!

My name is Jonah Saltzman, and I am thrilled to be serving as your director for the Captains of American Industry, 1887. As the titans of American business during what Mark Twain called the Gilded Age, you will each control some of the largest business, trusts, and holdings in the most important sectors of the economy. From steel production to rail transport, from oil extraction to publishing (to circus operation), the sectors and industries dominated by members of this committee produce the goods and services that allow daily life to continue as normal for tens of millions of Americans every day. Some of your industries represent vital structural components of the economy itself, and some are even important to the security of the nation. Of course, the high degree exercised by members of this committee will inevitably invite suspicion, fear, and opposition from state actors, economic competitors, and perhaps even other members of this committee; you will face a diverse array of challenges across the landscapes of American politics, economics, and society that will require creativity, effective deployment of resources, and strategic cooperation with your colleagues (and possibly your competitors). Over the course of the weekend, I hope to explore the relationship between economic and political influence, the ways in which perception of self-interest affects decision­making, and the dynamics of establishing trust and commitment credibility from an initial context of doubt and suspicion.

By HNMUN 2017, I will be a senior studying government and statistics. I am particularly interested in international relations, human rights, and international law, due in large part to my participation in Model UN since my freshman year of college, when I joined our ICMUN team and the staff of our two Boston conferences. Although I have directed and crisis directed several committees at HMUN, HNMUN, and HMUN China, in the ECOSOC and Specialized Agencies organs, I have never been as excited to staff a committee this far in advance of conference as I am to direct Captains of American Industry. I look forward to providing the most substantively vivid, informative, and exciting crisis committee experience possible come February.

Please feel free to contact me at any point before the conference with any questions or concerns you have, or just to introduce yourself.

Jonah Saltzman
Director, Captains of American Industry, 1887
Harvard National Model United Nations 2017

Dear Delegates,

Welcome to the 63rd session of HNMUN and to the year 1887! My name is David Gevarter, and it is my distinct privilege to serve as your crisis director for the Secret Meeting of the Captains of Industry. I am incredibly excited to see how each of you interacts with this fascinating period of American history, and how the committee as a whole may seek to alter the course of history.

I am a sophomore at Harvard College originally from Baltimore, Maryland, seeking a joint concentration in Government and Spanish/Latin American Studies. I have participated in Model UN since my freshman year of high school, and upon entering college, decided to join Harvard’s competitive traveling team. I staffed committees in the Specialized Agencies at both HMUN and HNMUN last year (shout out to those of you who saw me as the Pope), and I staff HACIA, a simulation of the Organization of American States hosted by Harvard in Latin America. Outside of MUN, I am a writer for the Harvard International Review, and I am on leadership for Harvard Hillel.

This committee addresses a crucial turning point in American history, where big business and government came head to head in a clash to establish dominance over the economic and political future of the country. Beyond these economic and political issues, the committee will also address moral issues stemming from these interactions. We frequently take for granted the complex dance of give and take that exists today between the private sector and the government, and in this committee, we will travel back to a time when the dance was much more one-sided and businesses exerted almost unimaginable influence on the daily lives of many Americans. While it may be true that most of these characters operated almost exclusively within the US, as men of such power and influence, whatever actions you take will be sure to have sweeping consequences that alter events far from the shores of the United States.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have, and I look forward to seeing you in February!

David Gevarter
Crisis Director, Captains of American Industry, 1887
Harvard National Model United Nations 2017

The year is 1887, and the room is filled with smoke.

This is the Union Club of the City of New York, the most exclusive social club for gentlemen this side of the Atlantic; you come here often. You can see around you some of the wealthiest, most powerful men in America, the owners of all the most important corporations in all the most important industries. You’ve never all been in the same room before, but this meeting was important enough that you decided it was worth attending, even if you’ll be answering federal investigators’ questions about collusion for weeks on end just for showing up. These top executives risked gathering together because those in the know have been hearing rumors about Congress – some say Congress wants to investigate “monopolistic” practices in your industries, some say they’re already talking about legislation; no one’s quite sure how far they might go, especially if this turns into some kind of political crusade. But everyone’s worried, and everyone’s here because they know that if you have a plan to keep the government out of our affairs, or to make sure Congress doesn’t get a chance to tell us how to run our businesses, tonight is the night to share it. Welcome to the Captains of American Industry.

Unsurprisingly, this committee is composed of the captains of American industry in 1887; known to some as the robber barons, these business titans controlled vast corporate empires and their influence reached every sector of the economy. But by 1887, members of Congress are demonstrating a growing intent to reign in the economic influence of the largest business trusts and monopolies with legislation, which would pose a grave threat to the interests of committee members. At the same time, trade unions are gaining popularity among American workers, who appear increasingly prepared to engage in large-scale strike action against American businesses in order to achieve better working conditions and higher wages, which could directly affect the bottom lines of the corporations and industries represented in this committee. In the political arena, populist parties are enjoying more support than ever, riding the enthusiasm for populist policies like free silver, inflationary monetary policy, and support for the agrarian sector and small, independent farmers to new levels of prominence in American politics, seeking to challenge dominance of “moneyed interests” in policy­making.

Faced with these various threats to their social, economic, and political interests, seventeen captains of industry are dining at the Union Club tonight, having come together not necessarily to collaborate (although that would not be unprecedented), at least to discuss possible strategies that would allow big business to maintain its dominance in the United States. However, while these individuals are brought together by their common interests in preventing government regulation of business, weakening the American labor movement, and ensuring that populist parties do not gain influence in Washington, they are each responsible for one or more corporations or entities that have interests of their own, which are often at odds with those of other committee members. Cooperation will be difficult and trust will be scarce, but members of this committee must develop strategies that will allow them to act collectively if there is any hope of maintaining the economic and political status­quo.

This moment in American history represents the peak of corporate America’s influence, when individual companies often controlled vast swathes of the economy, and the federal government had barely begun to address the consequences resulting from monopolization, vertical and horizontal integration, and the nearly complete lack of regulatory oversight over the practices and behaviors of the sprawling trusts and corporations that dominated the landscape of American business. In this context, delegates will explore the relationship between economic and political influence, the ways in which perception of self-interest affects decision-making, and the dynamics of establishing trust and commitment credibility from an initial context of doubt and suspicion. And if you are successful, the committee will defend corporate America from meddling government interference, and preserve the laissez­faire economic status­quo that allowed you to become so wealthy in the first place.