The Final Countdown To...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Roosevelt, Progressives, & Trust Busting

This was originally posted 3/9/2008 @ http://kapush.wordpress.com/2008/03/09/roosevelt-the-trust-buster/




President Roosevelt did not just focus on conservationism during his presidency.  He attacked the trusts guilty of monopolies and set up the necessary reforms that resulted in businesses into accepting government regulation. According to our textbook The American Pageant, Roosevelt, as a trustbuster, made headlines in 1902 when he attack the Northern Securities Company, a railroad holding company organized by financial titan J.P. Morgan and empire builder James J. Hill.  Roosevelt challenged these great big giants and their attempts to monopolized the railroad industry.  In response they appealed to the Supreme Court, which in 1904 upheld Roosevelt’s antitrust suit and ordered the Northern Securities Company to be dissolved.  The Northern Securities decision jolted Wall Street and angered big business but greatly ehanced Roosevelt’s reputation as a trust smasher. His big stick crashed down on other ginat monopolies, as he initiated over forty legal proceedings against them.  The Supreme Court in 1905 declared the beef trust illegal, and the heavy fist of justice fell upon monopolies controlling sugar, fertilizer, harvesters, and other key products(666-667).
According to Wikipedia, Trust-busting refers to government activities designed to break up trusts or monopolies. Theodore Roosevelt is the U.S. president most associated with dissolving trusts, but his chosen successor, William Howard Taft, actually began the most of the anti-trust proceedings.
Trusts were large business entities that largely succeeded in controlling a market, essentially becoming a monopoly. The term became common in the late 19th century, when a system of trusts controlled much of the economy of the United States. In 1898, President William McKinley launched the “trust-busting” era when he appointed the U.S. Industrial Commission on Trusts, which interrogated Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Charles M. Schwab, and other industrial titans. The report of the Industrial Commission was seized upon by Theodore Roosevelt, who became known as a “Trust Buster,” dissolving 44 trusts during his two terms as president. However, the “Trust Buster” name is probably more suited for Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft, who brought an end to 90 trusts in one term. Although Taft may have done more to control the trusts while in office, Roosevelt retains the nickname because he was the pioneer of trust-busting.

Do you think Roosevelt’s trust busting practices contradicts the ideals of capitalism?

18 comments:

C.Slotter said...

I do think that Roosevelt's trust busting practices contradict the ideals of capitalism. According to Wikipedia, capitalism is "an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for a private profit." Wikipedia also stated that in capitalism ALL of the means of production are privately owned by the company. This would make having a trust legal. According to the ideals of capitalism, companies were allowed to have a monopoly through vertical/horizontal integration; therefore, the gov't went against the ideals of capitalism by breaking trusts up to get rid of the monopolies.
Wikipedia also stated that economists believe that the government does not have the right to control these privately owned businesses. I thought that Republicans believed in letting business run its course. I was therefore surprised that Roosevelt, a Republican, would go against this principle and interfere in business to break up trusts.
I think that it was good for Roosevelt to break up these trusts because it helped other companies stay in the competition during tough times. However, Roosevelt's trust-busting actions went against the ideals of capitalism.

jessalves10 said...

Although I think that trust busting does sort of go against capitalism and the Republican might have believed that it the economy should run its course, I think that it happened due to the realization of how bad a monopoly is. With people in the slums and workers barely scraping enough money to survive, politicians started to realize how it was the middle and lower class that made up mostof the population. It would be wrong for a single man or company to monopolize a certain area of goods because they could set the price at whatever they wanted and the public would have no choice but to comply.
I dont think of trust-busting as contradictory, i think of it as evolutionary. It's evolutionary that the workers and middle class/lower class are being helped and finally represented by the government. Wealthy monopoly kings like Andrew Carnegie no longer had free reigns to control the public. It was time to help the general public, not just the rich.

Diana said...

I think that Roosevelt's trust busting practices do contradict the ideals of capitalism. With the definition of capitalism as “an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals.”(Dictionary.com) By having Roosevelt break down large monopolies and trusts, he clearly went against the idea of capitalism. By reading the definition of capitalism, Roosevelt should have allowed monopolies to stay together, but it was good that he didn't or else middle classed workers would not be able to survive during industrialism within the United States.
Even though Roosevelt contradicted him self in the ideals of capitalism, I felt that it was great of him to break up the trusts and monopolies. It was Roosevelt's responsibility to help out small corporations stay in business during industrialism.

Sarah said...

Commence Mini-Essay:
I agree with Ms. Yu's response in that Roosevelt's trust busting practices do contradict the ideals of capitalism. But before I start off on a rant, my question is why is Roosevelt known for pioneering trust busting if it was McKinley who developed the anti-trust era by setting up the US Industrial Commision on Trusts?
Anyways, Roosevelt did contradict capitalism. From Diana and Caitlin's definitions, I percieved that capitalism is an economic entity of "private" profit. From this I can conclude that Teddy was going against capitalism ("private") because the businesses who formed trust did so in pursuit of private economic interests. And whether or not they helped or harmed America's economy, Roosevelt contradicteed capitalism because he intruded on privatly oriented institutions. The game.

BigBri said...

I feel that trust-busting goes both ways. In a captialist society trust-busting goes against the ideals of capitalism. However, trust-busting helps eliminate monopoly’s which goes against capitalism in that capitalists like competition.

matthew said...

Theodore Roosevelt's trust busting pratices did contradict the ideas of capitalism. The definition of capitalism from dictionary.com is: an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth. Roosevelt's trust busting pratices expelled these corporations that create capitalism. Therefore trust busting contradicts the ideas of capitalism.

mike51095 said...

There is no doubt in my mind that Roosevelt's trust busting practices contradicted the ideals of capitalism. These trusts did not really do anything to violate the laws, they just found loopholes within capitalism that they used to their advantages. What Roosevelt did by busting 44 trusts could even be argued as unconstitutional because he denied the people involved in these trusts,” The pursuit of happiness." I think what needs to be examined more closely is if capitalism was really the right type of government for America during this time period. Maybe more of a socialist-like government that did not allow one corporation to take over the entire market would have worked out better. I am not promoting communism but maybe if our government used some of its principles we would have been better off as a whole country. -Mike Signore

jennaaxrae18 said...

Along with most of these comments, I too believe that Roosevelt's trust busting contradicted the ideals of capitalism. Capitalism, or an economic system in which a country's industry/trade are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state (definition provided to you by my handy dandy dictionary app.), is basically the same thing as a monopoly (what was trying to be avoided by trust busting practices.) Exclusive possession in trusts were being "busted," when capitalism is just that. I think that Roosevelt's acts in trust-busting were fairly beneficial and important, because like what Caitlin said, it helped other companies stay in competition. Despite that, it did go against the ideals of capitalism.

Jeanette said...

I think that Roosevelt’s trust-busting practices do contradict the ideals of capitalism, since he dissolved trusts and monopolies. Those acts obviously go against capitalism, which stresses that the goods being produced by a company are owned privately. I agree with Diana when she said that it was good how Roosevelt still broke up the monopolies, since the middle class people were being “squeezed” by the giant companies as well as the “other half” in the slums; it gave the progressives something to cheer about.
A question I have is, what is the difference between vertical integration and capitalism, exactly?

Christine said...

I agree with what most people said, trust-busting does contradict capitalism. Roosevelt destroyed any and every monopoly that controlled an entire market. Even though this does go against capitalism, I agree with Diana and Jeanette. Roosevelt's 'trust-busting' was a good thing. He created competition, which is very important in business. It helps keep prices reasonable and inflation somewhat under control.
I really like how Jeanette stated the connection between progressivism and trust-busting. The monopolies did effect everyone in the middle and lower classes, which was (and still is) the majority.

Mike said...

TR's trust busting practices in my opinion do violate or contradict the ideals of capitalism. As Matt so pointed out in his definition, capitalism is about the individual running the business. Yet with big bad Roosevelt coming up in here, he tries to outdo all these businesses that he doesn't see fit. Trust busting contradicts the ideals of capitalism.

mrowl12345 said...

Seeing as capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for a private profit and a trust company is a corporation organized with legal or ethical confidence of trusts and agencies, or in other words a trust is a giant privately owned company used for private profit then Roosevelt's trust busting do contradict the ideals of capitalism. To say again, this time in plainer english, capitalism is confidence in private companies making private profit and by TR busting them he is contradicting capitalism. I do agree with TR's actions during this progressive era however seeing as these private trusts were to large and corrupt and needed to be stopped.

I would also like to point out it is way past my bedtime, and i need to go to bed. sweetdreams

Becky said...

I think that Roosevelts practices do contradict capitalism because he interveined with the businesses who were doing the best. Some poeple commented on if this was a good thing I think it is irrelevant. As caitlin's definition told us privately owneed companies are supposed to make and control priceas and profit anything the government does to intervein goes against that.

Caitlin said...

I think it is pretty clear from Caitlin's definition of capitalism that Roosevelt's trustbusting did indeed go against capitalism. He intervened in a business because it had so much power but according to capitalism that was okay. I'm not saying capitalism was necessarily a bad thing all together, but it must have been troublesome enough that Roosevelt had to use his trustbusting technique to stop it.

Ross said...

I think we can all agree on the fact that Theodore Roosevelt did in fact go against the principles of capitalism when attacking the large, overpowering monopolies and trusts present at the time. Yet, drawing on the point brian brought up, capitalism does also thrive on competition, which was something that Roosevelt was clearly trying to accomplish. With this, I believe Theodore Roosevelt's actions can be looked at from both point of views, when destroing trusts and monopolies he interfered with the private process that capitalism is run by but he did this to insure there would be competition amongst businesses, another arguably more important principle of capitalism.

Sukhmeet said...

I believe that Theodore Roosevelt's trust busting contradicted capitalism because Roosevelt went out to beak up trusts and monopolies because he didn't like the idea of corporation buying other smaller companies or working together with other large companies to regulate prices. The actual definition of capitalism is the economic system based on private ownership of capital. With this being said Roosevelt clearly contradicted the ideas of capitalism because he didn't allow companies to regulate prices or become too large.

michellepleban said...

I do not think Roosevelt’s trust busting practices contradict the ideals of capitalism. Everyone is agreeing with Caitlin's defintion she found from Wikipedia but if you read on it says "There is no consensus on the precise definition of capitalism, nor how the term should be used as an analytical category". It further says that capitalism, by some, is interpretated striclty (that all the means of production is privately owned) and by others loosely (where most are in private hands). I do not think Roosevelt's trust busting contradicts capitalism because not one business should be able to control all the power in their certain area. Like Brian said capitalists do like competition and if their is only one business in power their is no competition. Also, capitalism is meant to create profit and encourage economic growth but with monopolies it prevents that.

amanda said...

I'm in favor of trust busting. I think the the goal of these busters was to make things more equal and easier for lower class workers which is exactly what they did. I'm not sure of my own opinion regarding Roosevelt's actions and how they relate to capitalism because every has good points in their own comments, views and sides. However i do think that trusts were in a sense unfair and took advantage of loopholes as mike said. I think Roosevelt's intentions behind busting trusts were in the interest of the people and may have been taken wrongly as many of these comments explain.