Quote of the Day “We demand that big business give the people a square deal; in return we must insist that when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right he shall himself be given a square deal.” — Theodore Roosevelt
If you follow Travellinbaen you know that too much politics in the diet is a recipe for an upset stomach. So today’s post is officially categorized as “historical reflection.” TB enjoys that.
The subject of Teddy Roosevelt came to mind this morning as I listened to discussion of the failure of Indymac Bank and the bailouts of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. I agreed with the commentator lamenting the fact that in good times profits are private while in bust times the bailouts are paid by the public. I do believe the bailouts are appropriate if done properly. Our whole economic system seems to be on the precipice of collapse and while government closed its eyes to oversight and regulation over the last seven years, it is good that they act now to prevent further deterioration.
Watching the bank stocks sink, the foreclosures rise and the fatcats getting bailed out has been a stark reminder that federal regulation is necessary not to hold back the honest businessman but to rein in the the dishonest ones–the ones that built the house of cards currently crashing around us. Publius referenced the Bull Moose party on Supercynic’s site the other day, only partly in jest I suspect, as an entity that ought to be resurrected. I thought today of the need for someone like Teddy Roosevelt to take on the modern day robber barons. He truly was a man ahead of his time and we’d all be better off if the Bull Moose had taken off.
TR took down some forty monopolistic trusts, most famously Big Railroad, Big Steel, and Big Oil. In the last twenty years Big Oil has come storming back through mergers. It would be nice to have another TR with the courage to knock them back down to size. We all are also familiar with the first Roosevelt’s efforts to establish our National Parks, quite possibly the wisest move of any President at any time. Most people know about these things, but they may not know some of his other acts and ideas.
TR was a man of letters and a prolific author. He was a founder of the NCAA. He was a world class academic in the field of large American mammals, and he was President of the American Historical Association.
As President we’re all familiar with his slogan, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” He did that, but he also spoke eloquently and effectively it seems. He was the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese War and resolved other international disputes. He successfully lobbied the rest of the world to afford Latin American countries equal status as nations. He created the Agriculture Department to make sure we could buy vermin-free meat. He helped create international law outlawing the use of force by nations to collect debts. He started the Panama Canal and he built up the US Navy to keep our strength on pace with the rest of the industrialized world. All the while, he reduced our debt by 90 million dollars. He advocated Universal Health Care which along with recognizing the need for conservation made him a man truly ahead of his time. Or maybe modern America is just way behind the times.
His success came at a cost though. Doing all that good made him a lot of enemies and he ended up being forced out of the Republican Party when despite winning the popular vote in the primaries he was not nominated for President in 1912. So he started the ill fated and short lived Bull Moose/Progressive Party to keep his ideas for promoting the general welfare while also maintaining a strong common defense. It made too much damned sense then, as now.