The Farmer And The Business Man
Performed by Theodore Roosevelt
Recorded August 1912
There is no body of our people whose interests are more inextricably interwoven with the interests of all the people than is the case with the farmers. The Country Life Commission should be revived with greatly increased powers; its abandonment was a severe blow to the interests of our people. The welfare of the farmer is a basic need of this nation. It is the men from the farm who in the past have taken the lead in every great movement within this nation, whether in time of war or in time of peace. It is well to have our cities prosper, but it is not well if they prosper at the expense of the country. In this movement the lead must be taken by the farmers themselves; but our people as a whole, through their governmental agencies, should back the farmers. Everything possible should be done to better the economic condition of the farmer, and also to increase the social value of the life of the farmer, the farmers wife, and their children. The burdens of labor and loneliness bear heavily on the women in the country; their welfare should be the especial concern of all of us. Everything possible should be done to make life in the country profitable so as to be attractive from the economic standpoint and there should be just the same chance to live as full, as well rounded, and as highly useful lives in the country as in the city.
The government must cooperate with the farmer to make the farm more productive. There must be no skinning of the soil. The farm should be left for the farmers son in better, and not worse, condition because of its cultivation. Moreover, every invention and improvement, every discovery and economy, should be at the service of the farmer in the work of production; and in addition, he should be helped to cooperate in business fashion with these fellows, so that the money paid by the consumer for the product of the soil shall, to as large a degree as possible, go into the pockets of the man who raised that product from the soil. So long as the farmer leaves cooperative activities with their profit-sharing to the city man of business, so long will the foundations of wealth be undermined and the comforts of enlightenment be impossible in the country communities.
The present conditions of business cannot be accepted as satisfactory. There are too many who do not prosper enough, and of the few who prosper greatly there are certainly some whose prosperity does not mean well for the country. Rational Progressives, no matter how radical, are well aware that nothing the government can do will make some men prosper, and we heartily approve the prosperity, no matter how great, of any man, if it comes as an incident to rendering service to the community; but we wish to shape conditions so that a greater number of the small men in business--the decent, respectable, industrious, and energetic men who conduct small businesses, who are retail traders, who run small stores and shops--shall be able to succeed, and so that the big man who is dishonest, shall not be allowed to succeed at all.
Our aim is to control business, not to strangle it--and above all, not to continue a policy of make-believe strangle towards big concerns that do evil, and constant menace toward both big and little concerns that do well.
Our aim is to promote prosperity and then to see that prosperity is passed around, that there is a proper division of prosperity. We wish to control big business so as to secure among other things good wages for the wageworkers and reasonable prices for the consumers. We will not submit to the prosperity that is obtained by lowering the wages of working men and charging an excessive price to consumers, nor to that other kind of prosperity obtained by swindling investors or getting unfair advantages over business rivals. We propose to make it worth while for our business men to develop the most efficient business agencies, but we propose to make these business agencies do complete justice to our whole people. Were against crooked business, big or little. We are in favor of honest business, big or little. We propose to penalize conduct and not size.