Economics

Rough Ridin' on Economic Policy

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Over at the National Review, historian Michael Knox Beran offers a tart rejoinder to those contemporary politicians who would offer Teddy Roosevelt as their role model. Some snippets:

The Hepburn Act of 1906, for which he worked lustily, strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission's grip on the railways ? a step that led eventually to the dilapidation of the railroads and to Amtrak.

As for the 1906 Food and Drug Act, which established the FDA, its principal beneficiaries (so Milton and Rose Friedman contend in Free to Choose) were the meat-packers, who were glad to have taxpayer-subsidized help in ensuring the quality of their cattle.

Roosevelt's dance with the command economy culminated in his "New Nationalism" manifesto. In the suitably visionary precincts of the John Brown Cemetery in Osawatomie, Kansas, on a hot day in August 1910, the ex-president mounted the tripod and lamented, in lugubrious and apocalyptic tones, the "absence of effective state" in America. He called for a paternalist form of government that would "control the mighty commercial forces" of the Republic. […]

Roosevelt argued that laissez-faire economics had been superseded by a new, more efficient gospel of administrative supremacy. Edmund Morris, who in Theodore Rex was manifestly hypnotized by his hero's sound and fury, argued that "the outdated system of laissez-faire … was accelerating out of control." So, at any rate, Roosevelt believed. Rather than use government to promote freer, more competitive markets, he used it to promote government itself. The state, not the market place, was his ideal.

Five years ago in reason, Michael McMenamin made the case for T.R.'s foreign policy record being one of admirable restraint.

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  1. I am utterly baffled by the Cult of Teddy.

  2. And yet there he is on Mount Rushmore. No stamp or coin or music video can top that.

  3. It makes sense that a guy like McCain would admire Teddy R., after all, its just one meglomaniacal socialist admiring another.

  4. Is anyone else besides me royally creeped out by Mt. Rushmore?

  5. Clearly the only thing on Dictator Bushes mind is Global Domination. He could care less about what shape the Sheeple are in! pathetic!

    JT
    http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  6. Retard alert!

  7. I am utterly baffled by the Cult of Teddy.

    He really isn’t that hard to admire. He did a great deal to desegregate the federal government including publicly breaking the taboo against consulting with Black intellectuals, institute civil service reforms, establish National Parks, bring labor and capital to the same table productively, and was an impressive diplomat.

    His foreign policy was kinda shitty-shitty, but it was at least *reality-based* as opposed to Wilson’s *when you wish on a cloud and an automatic rifle*-based Foreign policy.

  8. And that tense shift about halfway through that paragraph is jarring and embarrassingly stupid-sounding. Sorry about that, folks.

  9. You should really blame Upton Sinclair for the FDA.

  10. @justin watts: When you say “He could care less…”, you’re actually saying the opposite of what you intend to say. The correct term is “He couldn’t care less.”

  11. Ignore Justin Watts; I believe the guy is actually a bot trying to attract people to a site which installs keylogging software on computers.

    The name keeps changing, the posts are always vague and tangential to the actual topic being discussed, he always signs his stuff JT, followed by a human readable (but not clickable) link.

  12. Is anyone else besides me royally creeped out by Mt. Rushmore?

    I’m reading James Bradley’s Flyboys at the moment, and during a brief rundown of both US and Japanese pre-WWII misdeeds, he mentions the disgrace that is Mount Rushmore. I always thought it was neat, if a bit creepy.

    Teddy’s presence among the other three does give a certain “one of these things is not like the other” vibe.

  13. McVouty,

    Incorrect. “He could care less” is correct because there is implied sarcasm.

  14. We will know hes a bot for sure if in February ’09 hes still writing posts about the “dictator Bush”.

  15. We will know hes a bot for sure if in February ’09 hes still writing posts about the “dictator Bush”.

    I dunno. The Green party VP candidate seems to think she’s running against Dick Cheney, so he may be similarly confused. We’ll have to wait and see.

  16. T.R. led to Wilson’s victory in 1912. No Wilson presidency, no U.S. entry into WWI.
    WWI stalemate, maybe no Nazis and WWII?

  17. The Hepburn Act of 1906, for which he worked lustily, strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission’s grip on the railways ? a step that led eventually to the dilapidation of the railroads and to Amtrak.

    The Interstate Highway System (for freight) and the development of aviation (for passengers) might have had something to do with that too. It’s quite silly to blame current problems on something that happened over 100 years ago.

  18. Sometimes I think you guys strain too hard for rock lyrics or song title headers, but… “At Home He Feels Like A Jurist” and “All Aboard For Fund Time.” Two knockouts in two days!

  19. Is anyone else besides me royally creeped out by Mt. Rushmore?

    Nah, it just makes me think of North by Northwest.

  20. The Interstate Highway System (for freight) and the development of aviation (for passengers) might have had something to do with that too. It’s quite silly to blame current problems on something that happened over 100 years ago.

    But the ICC (and the more general belief that the railroads were immortal giants that needed to be bound up and bled dry, and the laws inspired by such beliefs) restricted the railroads’ ability to adapt to their circumstances in many ways, which included federal control of their tariffs, service and routes.

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