This will be my final post stimulated by my recent read of David McCullough’s Mornings on Horseback.
At one point in his career as a New York Assemblyman, Roosevelt was impressed to lead the charge which would have removed the cigar making industry out of the homes in which it had become a massive business. To the conservative outside observer, this seemed like an anti-business, anti-family, government intrusion into the lives of citizens and the rights of business.
So it seemed to TR until Samuel Gompers prevailed upon him to actually tour the homes where this was going on. He found awful conditions, sweat shops, really, where great pressure and little pay was given for labor that was unregulated and involved even the smallest of children.
The bill would move cigar making out of these homes and into a factory where those who did the labor could be well treated and well paid for what they did, and children enabled to be children. It became for him a matter of social justice. And for this, he was accused of being a socialist.
It’s a standard ad hominem against any act calling for social justice, but it was a necessary step for the government to take. We are often told that the free market will correct such ills, but it doesn’t. The market has a poor track record when it comes to issues of human rights or environmental concern. So it requires the power of those unassociated with dollars to act.
There are times that the government must act. And yet, always? That requires wisdom.
I remember a cartoon contrasting child rearing between now and a long time ago. In the one panel, a child falls from a tree, and the dad says to him, “C’mon. Shake it off. You’ll be alright.” In the other panel, the child falls, and the father says to the panicky mother, “The government should do something to make trees safer.”
And wisdom will always, it seems to me, move forward along two paths, two paths illustrated by the contrasting approaches of Roosevelt’s father and uncle. The uncle called for greater government involvement to solve the ills of the day. His father, in the meantime, established homes for indigent orphan boys, built museums, and helped widowed soldiers.
Both seem to be needed.