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Sounding like one of today’s Progressives attacking “trickle-down economics,” he continues:
He mocks the people who proposes that the Government shall protect the rich and that they in turn will care for the laboring poor. Any intermediary between the people and their Government or the least delegation of the care and protection the Government owes to the humblest citizen in the land makes the boast of free institutions a glittering delusion and the pretended boon of American citizenship a shameless imposition.
Call for Reform
And he’s not finished. The speaker calls for reform, which he expects would have the support “of all who believe that the contented competence and comfort of many accord better with the spirit of our institutions than colossal fortunes unfairly gathered in the hands of a few” (emphasis added).
No. It is neither of them.
Casting a wider net, perhaps it is the “free market socialist” writer and editor Benjamin Tucker?
It is Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. The occasion: his December 1888 State of the Union address, delivered a month after losing his reelection bid in the electoral college (but not in the popular vote) to Benjamin Harrison.
Source of Privilege: The Tariff
The source of corporate privilege that raised Cleveland’s ire was the tariff, one of Tucker’s despised “four monopolies.” (Back in the day, it was said, “The tariff is the mother of trusts.”) As Cleveland puts it, “It can not be denied that the selfish and private interests which are so persistently heard when efforts are made to deal in a just and comprehensive manner with our tariff laws are related to, if they are not responsible for, the sentiment largely prevailing among the people that the General Government is the fountain of individual and private aid.”
Then, astoundingly, he adds:
Communism is a hateful thing and a menace to peace and organized government; but the communism of combined wealth and capital, the outgrowth of overweening cupidity and selfishness, which insidiously undermines the justice and integrity of free institutions, is not less dangerous than the communism of oppressed poverty and toil, which, exasperated by injustice and discontent, attacks with wild disorder the citadel of rule. [Emphasis added.]
Note what Cleveland is saying: The impetus for communism is not the masses’ or intellectuals’ envy of wealth earned through achievement in the market, but rather honest people’s frustration at being exploited through the collusion of capital and State, which Cleveland also labels a form of “communism.” In another place he refers to the “communism of pelf.”
No Laissez Faire