October 08, 2014

FDR calls it

Reflecting on the concentration of economic power that preceded America’s economic collapse, [FDR] said: “Out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital—all undreamed of by the Fathers—the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.”

What’s striking about the convention speech is the grounds on which the president chose to criticize this historic inequality. It’s not a speech about money, or prosperity, or putting another car in the middle-class garage—rather, it’s an argument about liberty. Inequality was harmful to ordinary Americans because it put “the conditions of their labor … beyond the control of the people.” It threatened self-government on the level of everyday life—and, above all, on the level of national politics.

“The privileged princes of these new economic dynasties,” the president argued, “reached out for control over government itself.” Against their claim that the political process could go on uncorrupted in the presence of enormous concentrations of wealth, President Roosevelt urged his listeners to see political liberty as bound up with freedom from need. Against their claim that freedom was a question of the ballot alone, he reasserted the classical, small-r republican tradition that has played such a pivotal role in our political history: the view that the people’s liberty is threatened whenever they are subject to domination by elites, whether of birth or of wealth, whether political or economic.



Blogger JAB said...

"What He Said."

October 9, 2014 at 9:34 PM  

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