Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

8.04.2010

Big Business vs. Big Government During a More Blatant Era

Recently started reading The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. It's an interesting look at the figures, politics, and events behind the creation of the national forest system. It provides interesting perspective for our own political and economic climate. Here are extensive excerpts from chapter 2, "Roost of the Robber Barons."

Learning his craft in New York at a time when public office was bought and sold by machine bosses, Roosevelt had developed a remarkably hard view of politics. “On one side there were corrupt and unscrupulous demagogues,” he wrote of the New York State Assembly, “and on the other side corrupt and unscrupulous reactionaries.” . . .

Clark purchased cops and courts, newspaper editors and ministers, grand juries--any source of opposition or fair play. Because senators were then chosen by state legislatures, he didn’t have to pretend to care about average citizens. He was above the law, because the law was easily bought . . .

As for these moralists in the Roosevelt administration with their progressive agenda, who were they fooling? Wake up and smell the new century!

“I never bought a man who was not for sale,” said Clark, shrugging off the high-minded. . . .

“There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensitive to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune,” Roosevelt said just before he became president. . . .

To Clark, Heyburn, and many others, these assertions were laughable. They dismissed Roosevelt’s crusade as nonsense. Roosevelt’s task was to persuade people not just to cherish their natural heritage, but to understand that it was their right in a democracy to own it--every citizen holding a stake. In an era of free-for-all capitalism, it was revolutionary to insist, as he did, that the “rights of the public to the national resources outweigh private rights.” Gifford Pinchot may have penned that line for his boss. Roosevelt liked it enough that he repeated it throughout his presidency. “The forest reserves should be set apart forever for the use and benefit of our people as a whole and not sacrificed to the shortsighted greed of a few,” Roosevelt said in his first annual message to Congress . . .

Following his words with action, Roosevelt created the nation’s first wildlife refuge, Pelican Island in Florida. His executive power, he discovered, while not on par with that of creation, certainly could do the opposite--keep species from going out of existence. “Is there any law that will prevent me from declaring Pelican Island a federal bird reservation?” he asked. “Very well, then I do so declare it.” And with that, one of the signature birds of the Southeast had its nesting home written on the map. Roosevelt used executive decrees to add considerably to the forest reserve system, building in huge initial chunks on what Grover Cleveland had started in the last months of his presidency. . . .

Outside the reserves, the bulk of the public domain remained open for the taking by the copper kings, timber barons, and railroad magnates who dominated the economy and controlled much of Congress. . . . In the West, the railroad’s subsidiaries and contractors cut indiscriminately in the reserves, converting whole forests into miles of underground wooden ribs for mines and aboveground ties for transportation.

The titans were accustomed to getting land for free. . . . Between them, the two railroads were handed a piece of the United States nearly equal in size to all of New England. But it was not enough. They sold off much of the land to ranchers, speculators, and city builders, and then took their timber at will from the reserves.

These western landlords swapped properties the way European dukes divided the spoils of a medieval war. . . .

Roosevelt too was incensed. The trusts had pushed him with double-fisted arrogance, which roused his scrappier instincts. Morgan thought he could strike a quick deal. “If we have done anything wrong, send your man to my man and they can fix it up,” he said. But there would be nothing short of open war in the courts. The titans howled. E. H. Harriman warned a Roosevelt aide that the president could not stop them; the trusts would crush him. “He said that whenever it was necessary he could buy a sufficient number of senators and congressmen or state legislators to protect his interests,” Roosevelt wrote a friend. “And when necessary, he could buy the judiciary.” . . .

As to Roosevelt’s view of these men, he was rarely discreet. He called them “the most dangerous members of the criminal class, the malefactors of great wealth,” in his best-known phrase, uttered during a sharp economic downturn. And he was more cutting when he really wanted to be dismissive. . . .

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