Saturday, February 06, 2016

Jeffrey Eisenach: The Progressive crackup

Eisenach has a good piece on Progressives's long running battle over bigness.
The debate then was over “bigness” — specifically the emergence of industrial giants known as “trusts” — and it was fresher and hence even more politically potent than today. As business historian Thomas McCraw put it, the big corporations that rose up out of the Industrial Revolution “seemed to be mutations, the consequence of some sinister tampering with the natural order of things … powerful new political forces which must be opposed in the name of American democracy.” For more than 50 years — from before the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887 until the culmination of the New Deal in the late 1930s — this debate occupied politicians at all levels and from both parties, and played a defining role in presidential politics. Who can forget the political cartoon depicting Teddy Roosevelt wielding his “big stick,” not at foreign adversaries but at American corporations — the oil and railroad trusts? The quest to reign in big business was the motivating principle and central purpose of the Progressive Movement.
Sanders sounded as though he jumped into the small bucket at that last debate rambling about braking up the Big Banks without telling us much on how. Chop the big Banks into how many small ones? Socialists once scoffed at such nonsense.
In one of the many historic excerpts from the forthcoming 100th anniversary issue of The Progressive magazine, Socialist Norman Thomas scoffs at Republican accusations that FDR is a "socialist." No socialist, Thomas explains, would stage a short-term government takeover of the banks, only to return them once they were solvent to the same Wall Street millionaires who broke them in the first place. - See more at: http://progressive.org/mag/rc031009.html#sthash.zUxXNSVI.dpuf

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