When Theodore Roosevelt was running for president as a Progressive Bull Moose candidate in 1912, one of the chief topics of the campaign was the size and power of the “trusts” (i.e. giant corporations ). Along with Roosevelt, the other three presidential candidates (Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, and Eugene Debs) were likewise fully engaged on the campaign trail with the topics of antitrust and monopoly power. Wilson believed that these colossal corporations were quickly becoming the masters of the people. “You know what happens when you are the servant of a corporation,” he said. You do things, he continued, “which you know are against the public interest. Your individuality is swallowed up in the individuality and purpose of a great corporation.”1
Theodore Roosevelt, of course, who had different ideas about how to deal with the problem, likewise understood that something had to be done. TR believed that good could come from free markets and rigorous competition, while at the same time he recognized that these giant corporations had to be brought back into line. “We are not hostile to them,” he said, “we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.” There was a point, however, when the size of concentrated wealth and power could itself become a danger to society because, he said, the “really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities” which “differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means,” qualities which help ensure the “political domination of money.”
Alas, here we are just over 100 years later, repeating the same mistakes of the past. We have allowed corporations to grow in size and power, well beyond what any reasonable capitalist could expect, to the point that “misconduct” is even more common today than it was during the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s—the Gilded Age that led TR to found the Progressive Bull Moose Party. In fact, corporations today now threaten our freedom and liberty at every turn—from monopoly power over our markets, to the destruction of our environment, to control of our elections, and the U.S. Congress itself.
Let us learn from the past. Let us end the era of big banks and massive multi-national corporations. They have become so big and powerful and corrupt that our elected officials are unwilling or perhaps even unable to stop them. It is now up to the people to rise up and organize and beat these behemoths back down to size–while we still can. Join the Bull Moose Revolution and help us end the era of big money, big corporate-controlled government—rule by the super rich—and return power to the people.
- Wilson, Woodrow (2005). Woodrow Wilson: The Essential Political Writings. Oxford: Lexington Books. Pg. 108.