Functions of The Next Administration

Performed by William H. Taft
Recorded August 5, 1908

Mr. Roosevelt has set high the standard of business morality and obedience to law. The Railroad Race Bill was more useful possibly in the immediate moral effects of its passage than even the legal effects of its very useful provisions. From its enactment dates the voluntary abandonment of the practice of rebates and discriminations to the railroad and the return by their managers to obedience to law and the fixing of tariff. The Pure Food and Meat Inspection Laws and the prosecutions directed by the President under the anti- trust law have had a similar moral affect in the general business community and have made it now the common practice for the great industrial corporations to consult the law with a view to keeping within its provision. It has also had the effect of protecting and encouraging smaller competitive companies so that they have been enabled to do a profitable business. But we should be blind to the ordinary working of human nature if we did not recognize that the moral standards set by President Roosevelt will not continue to be observed by those whom cupidity and the desire for financial power may tempt, unless the requisite machinery is introduced into the law which shall in its practical operation maintain these standards and secure the country against the departure from them. The chief function of the next administration in my judgment is distinct from, and a progressive development of, that which has been performed by President Roosevelt. The chief function of the next administration is to complete and perfect the machinery by which these standards may be maintained, by which the lawbreakers may be promptly restrained and punished, but which shall operate with sufficient accuracy and dispatch to interfere with legitimate business as little as possible. Such machinery is not now adequate. There should be a classification of that very small percentage of industrial corporations having power and opportunity to affect illegal restraints of trade and monopolies and legislation either inducing or compelling them to subject themselves to registry and to proper publicity regulations and supervision of the Department of Commerce and Labor. The field covered by the industrial combinations and by the railroads is so very extensive that the interests of the public and the interests of the businesses concerned cannot be properly subserved except by reorganization of bureaus in the Department of Commerce and Labor, of Agriculture, and the Department of Justice, and a change in the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission. It does not assist matters to prescribe new duties for the Interstate Commerce Commission which is as practically impossible for it to perform or to denounce new offences with drastic punishment unless subordinate and ancillary legislation shall be passed making possible the quick enforcement in the great variety of cases which are constantly arising of the principles laid down by Mr. Roosevelt and with respect to which only typical instances of prosecution with the present machinery are possible. Such legislation should and would greatly promote legitimate business by enabling those anxious to obey the federal statute to know just what are the bounds of their lawful action. The practical constructive and difficult work, therefore, of those who follow Mr. Roosevelt is to devise the ways and means by which the high level of business integrity and obedience to law which he has established may be maintained and departures from it restrained without undue interference with legitimate business.