Celebrating Independents: America’s Independent Businesses Have Reasons for Optimism

by Stacy Mitchell, July 2, 2004

On a cold December night, 231 years ago, a band of patriots forced their way onto three ships docked in Boston Harbor and dumped more than 90,000 pounds of tea into the sea. Although we often forget it today, their actions were as much a challenge to global corporate power as they were a rebellion against King George III.

The ships were owned by the East India Company, a vast transnational corporation that exerted enormous power over the American economy. It had a firm grip on the British government too. In 1773 parliament passed the Tea Act, which exempted the East India Company from paying taxes on tea it sold in the colonies. The aim was to enable the company to undercut small competitors, all of whom were subject to the tax, and drive them out of business.

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