Who Runs Our Government?

Woodrow Wilson describes the troubling association between government and business.

“One of the most alarming phenomena of the time, … one of the most significant signs of the new social era is the degree to which government has become associated with business. I speak, for the moment, of the control over the government exercised by Big Business. Behind the whole subject, of course is the truth that, in the new order, government and business must be associated closely. But that association is upside down. Our government has been for the past few years under the control of heads of great allied corporations with special interests. It has not controlled these interests and assigned them a proper place in the whole system of business; it has submitted itself to their control. As a result, there have grown up vicious systems and schemes of governmental favoritism (the most obvious being the extravagant tariff), far-reaching in effect upon the whole fabric of life, touching to his injury every inhabitant of the land, laying unfair and impossible handicaps upon competitors, imposing taxes in every direction, stifling everywhere the free spirit of American enterprise.”

“…It is an intolerable thing that the government of the republic should have got so far out of the hands of the people; should have been captured by interests which are special and not general. In the train of this capture follow the troops of scandals, wrongs, indecencies, with which our politics swarm.”

“There are cities in America of whose government we are ashamed. There are cities everywhere, in every part of the land, in which we feel that, not the interests of the public, but the interests of special privileges, of selfish men, are served; where contracts take precedence over public interest. Not only in big cities is this the case. Have you noticed the growth of socialistic sentiment in the smaller towns? Not many months ago I stopped at a little town in Nebraska, and while my train lingered I met on the platform a very engaging young fellow dressed in overalls who introduced himself to me as the mayor of the town, and added that he was a Socialist. I said, ‘What does that mean? Does that mean this town is Socialistic?’ ‘No, sir,’ he said; ‘I have not deceived myself; the vote by which I was elected was about 20 per cent socialistic and 80 per cent protest.’ It was protest against the treachery to the people of those who led the other parties of that town.”

I want to explain the last story here by Woodrow Wilson, to the best of my ability. The mayor in overalls won his seat by capturing the votes of the disgruntled public who were not happy with either of the major parties. They elected, against their favorite position, a less corrupt candidate, even though he was a socialist. Imagine that in our day!! (Not to say that I am a socialist! I am not!)

If you think you can explain Wilson’s Nebraskan story better than I, please go ahead and leave a comment.

Wilson, Woodrow. “Chapter 1/The Old Order Changeth.” The New Freedom; a Call for the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People. New York and Garden City: Doubleday, Page, 1913. 24-27. Print.

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