Appendix Q. Speeches For Study And Practise. Part 3
At the same time men have grasped fortunes in this country so great that the human mind cannot comprehend their magnitude. These mountains of wealth are far larger than even that lavish reward which no one would deny to business risk or genius.
On the other hand, American business is uncertain and unsteady compared with the business of other nations. American business men are the best and bravest in the world, and yet our business conditions hamper their energies and chill their courage. We have no permanency in business affairs, no sure outlook upon the business future. This unsettled state of American business prevents it from realizing for the people that great and continuous prosperity which our country's location, vast wealth and small population justifies.
We mean to remedy these conditions. We mean not only to make prosperity steady, but to give to the many who earn it a just share of that prosperity instead of helping the few who do not earn it to take an unjust share. The progressive motto is "Pass prosperity around." To make human living easier, to free the hands of honest business, to make trade and commerce sound and steady, to protect womanhood, save childhood and restore the dignity of manhood - these are the tasks we must do.
What, then, is the progressive answer to these questions? We are able to give it specifically and concretely. The first work before us is the revival of honest business. For business is nothing but the industrial and trade activities of all the people. Men grow the products of the field, cut ripe timber from the forest, dig metal from the mine, fashion all for human use, carry them to the market place and exchange them according to their mutual needs - and this is business.
With our vast advantages, contrasted with the vast disadvantages of other nations, American business all the time should be the best and steadiest in the world. But it is not. Germany, with shallow soil, no mines, only a window on the seas and a population more than ten times as dense as ours, yet has a sounder business, a steadier prosperity, a more contented because better cared for people.
What, then, must we do to make American business better? We must do what poorer nations have done. We must end the abuses of business by striking down those abuses instead of striking down business itself. We must try to make little business big and all business honest instead of striving to make big business little and yet letting it remain dishonest.
Present-day business is as unlike old-time business as the old-time ox-cart is unlike the present-day locomotive. Invention has made the whole world over again. The railroad, telegraph, telephone have bound the people of modern nations into families. To do the business of these closely knit millions in every modern country great business concerns came into being. What we call big business is the child of the economic progress of mankind. So warfare to destroy big business is foolish because it can not succeed and wicked because it ought not to succeed. Warfare to destroy big business does not hurt big business, which always comes out on top, so much as it hurts all other business which, in such a warfare, never comes out on top.
With the growth of big business came business evils just as great. It is these evils of big business that hurt the people and injure all other business. One of these wrongs is over capitalization which taxes the people's very living. Another is the manipulation of prices to the unsettlement of all normal business and to the people's damage. Another is interference in the making of the people's laws and the running of the people's government in the unjust interest of evil business. Getting laws that enable particular interests to rob the people, and even to gather criminal riches from human health ana life is still another.
An example of such laws is the infamous tobacco legislation of 1902, which authorized the Tobacco Trust to continue to collect from the people the Spanish War tax, amounting to a score of millions of dollars, but to keep that tax instead of turning it over to the government, as it had been doing. Another example is the shameful meat legislation, by which the Beef Trust had the meat it sent abroad inspected by the government so that foreign countries would take its product and yet was permitted to sell diseased meat to our own people. It is incredible that laws like these could ever get on the Nation's statute books. The invisible government put them there; and only the universal wrath of an enraged people corrected them when, after years, the people discovered the outrages.
It is to get just such laws as these and to prevent the passage of laws to correct them, as well as to keep off the statute books general laws which will end the general abuses of big business that these few criminal interests corrupt our politics, invest in public officials and keep in power in both parties that type of politicians and party managers who debase American politics.
Behind rotten laws and preventing sound laws, stands the corrupt boss; behind the corrupt boss stands the robber interest; and commanding these powers of pillage stands bloated human greed. It is this conspiracy of evil we must overthrow if we would get the honest laws we need. It is this invisible government we must destroy if we would save American institutions.
Other nations have ended the very same business evils from which we suffer by clearly defining business wrong-doing and then making it a criminal offense, punishable by imprisonment. Yet these foreign nations encourage big business itself and foster all honest business. But they do not tolerate dishonest business, little or big.
What, then, shall we Americans do? Common sense and the experience of the world says that we ought to keep the good big business does for us and stop the wrongs that big business does to us. Yet we have done just the other thing. We have struck at big business itself and have not even aimed to strike at the evils of big business. Nearly twenty-five years ago Congress passed a law to govern American business m the present time which Parliament passed in the reign of King James to govern English business in that time.