A Blog of the Global Justice Movement

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Let’s Make a Deal, IX: Osawatomie, Kansas, 1910

The United States was in serious trouble in the early 20th century.  The land frontier was effectively closed, and it had not been replaced with democratic access to other forms of capital.  The financial system was structured in a way that forced small businessmen and farmers to finance growth with past savings, while permitting large corporations to create money at will for growth by offering bills of exchange to banks and other businesses.  Ownership of commercial, industrial and agricultural capital was becoming increasingly concentrated, while the “Trusts” (monopolies) were exercising immense financial and political power.


In 1910 Theodore Roosevelt spoke before a “GAR” (“Grand Army of the Republic”) gathering in Osawatomie, Kansas.  The GAR was a fraternal organization for Union Civil War veterans.  Roosevelt’s theme was the restoration of the vision of Abraham Lincoln, for which they had fought the bloodiest war in American history, a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The speech was “The New Nationalism.”  Perhaps not surprisingly, just as the significance of the Civil War has been “adjusted” to reflect special interests, “The New Nationalism” is one of the most misunderstood, misused, and misinterpreted speeches in American history.  Capitalists consider it socialist, socialists consider it capitalist, and opportunists consider it fertile ground for finding whitewash for their programs.

Consequently, Roosevelt’s “progressivism” received a bad rap.  Following the 1912 presidential campaign, progressivism followed populism and degenerated rapidly into just one more form of socialism.  Ironically, while Roosevelt was blamed for starting the U.S. on the road to today’s effective socialism, those of his proposals that were adopted — by a Democrat president and Congress — did not remain in force for very long, and were soon twisted and used to make the problems he tried to address much worse.

The problem was that the progressive platform (regardless who implemented it), kept the great mass of people trapped by the slavery of past savings.  Reliance on past savings necessarily forces an economy into either capitalism or socialism, then into the Servile State in an effort to socialize capitalism or capitalize socialism.  No other course is possible.

Even more ironic is the fact that the major progressive reform — the establishment of the Federal Reserve — is custom designed to break the slavery of past savings and free the economy from the seemingly inevitable descent into the Servile State.

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