Franklin Roosevelt on the Concentration of Economic Power
In 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to Congress on the Concentration of Economic Power. Here is a sample of what he had to say that day.
“Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people.
The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe, if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.
Both lessons hit home.
Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing. This concentration is seriously impairing the economic effectiveness of private enterprise as a way of providing employment for labor and capital and as a way of assuring a more equitable distribution of income and earnings among the people of the nation as a whole.”
Business’ attitude toward FDR’s New Deal fell within a range from violent criticism at one end, to pathological hatred at the other. Every aspect of New Deal legislation was attacked by corporate interests. Their animus was aimed primarily at what they alleged to be an over-regulation of the economy. Businessmen went so far as to accuse President Roosevelt of “sovietizing” America and destroying free enterprise. The president answered these hysterical attacks by calmly insisting that, while the people of America have no quarrel with business. They do insist that the power acquired by concentrated wealth should not be abused.
It’s a great speech that has real points of contact with our own day. If you would like to read the whole text, it can be found at this web address.