Trust-busting: A Response to Business Concentration

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Most Republicans viewed their election victory in 1900 as an endorsement of the party’s policies toward business. Theodore Roosevelt, who became president in September 1901, did not fully share that view. Rather than simply maintain the status quo, Roosevelt sought a mid-course between Republican laissez faire policies and the socialism advocated by some reform elements.

The president found an ally in an increasingly concerned public that had been wary of big government solutions in the past, but was now more receptive. The trusts` continuing growth in numbers and power convinced many that action was needed.

Roosevelt took the following steps during his first administration to “keep order” in the American economy:

Trust-busting was not a term the president favored. He believed the offending corporations needed to be regulated, not destroyed. Many of his big business critics, however, failed to note the difference.

Liberal Catholic bishops produced a document known as the Bishops` Program of Social Reconstruction after World War I. Regarding the concentration of wealth, the bishops` opined that:

For the third evil mentioned above, excessive gains by a small minority of privileged capitalists, the main remedies are prevention of monopolistic control of commodities, adequate government regulation of such public-service monopolies as will remain under private operation, and heavy taxation of incomes, excess profits, and inheritances.

See other Theodore Roosevelt domestic activity.