Yesterday’s post contrasting the Progressives of old with today’s “Progressives” prompted a number of interesting responses and queries from readers. Prof. John Moser of Ashland University notes that while Theodore Roosevelt criticized “socialism,” this came before the Bolshevik revolution, and many of Roosevelt’s heavy-handed regulatory policies, along with his attacks on wealth, come pretty close to “social democracy” at least, if not the dreaded f-word (“fascism”).
Another reader directs my attention to a remarkable New York Times editorial about TR from September 30, 1913, that flat out calls TR a capital-S “Socialist.” Sample:
Theodore Roosevelt has now thought out and matured his doctrine of Socialism. It is not the Marxian Socialism. . . Mr. Roosevelt achieves the redistribution of wealth in a simpler and easier way. He leaves the land, the mines, the factories, the railroads, the banks–all the instruments of production and exchange–in the hands of their individual owners, but of the profits of their operation he takes whatever share the people at any given time may choose to appropriate to the common use. The people are going to say, We care not who owns and milks the cow, so long as we get our fill of the milk and cream. Marx left Socialism in its infancy, a doctrine that stumbled and sprawled under the weight of its own inconsistencies. Mr. Roosevelt’s doctrine is of no such complexity. It has all the simplicity of theft and much of its impudence.
At first glance, you might say, “Well, the New York Times has certainly changed!” On the other hand, this much of the editorial could just was easily be written today about Obama, only with an approving tone.
The rest of that old editorial could not be salvaged for today, however. But perhaps some Tea Party rallies might read from it, just to twist the tail of today’s Timesmen:
The plan must be examined. It is not without foresight and purpose that Mr. Roosevelt would call into being a government of men, not of laws. The Constitution of the United States, adopted a century and a quarter ago, guarantees protection to life, liberty, and property of the citizen. When the deep, even-flowing, traditional current of constitutional interpretation by men profoundly learned in the law is diverted to the fretted and tortuous channel of popular caprice, the checks the people at the beginning laid upon themselves, the guarantees they gave as a solemn covenant of all with the all are swept away, mere sticks in the Niagara Rapids. The Constitution is torn to tatters. And that is the foundation Mr. Roosevelt well knows. In vain the possessor of a great fortune will appeal to the courts: the people are the courts, and they want his money. Not only the great, but the small, fortunes will be open to spoliation, any fortunes, any accumulation. There are not enough great fortunes to satisfy Mr. Roosevelt’s great Progressive Party after it has once made a beginning of redistributing wealth by confiscation. . . Now the effect of this cannot be mistaken. It would kill the spirit of enterprise, at once put a stop to industrial progress, and bring the country’s business to the dead level of stagnation.
More to come on all of this. . .