These words of Franklin Roosevelt are from his 1937 inaugural address. At the time our country was struggling to recover from the worst world-wide economic depression in history, and it was Roosevelt’s firm economic hand that was slowly guiding us to a recovery:
It has often been said that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself. What that means is that FDR took office at the lowest depths of the Great Depression, when it was clear that rampant uncontrolled capitalism had not only failed to benefit the more than one-third of Americans were ill-housed, ill-clothed, and ill-fed, but had also collapsed on itself due to the uncontrolled excesses that unregulated free markets had created. But rather than scrapping the system, FDR went about fixing it by establishing the regulations that capitalism needs to function effectively, the policies needed to give people confidence in the system, and the programs needed to ensure that a larger and larger proportion of Americans would benefit from the system.
I have been a free-market advocate for a good deal of my adult life, but the last few years have demonstrated to me an important aspect of capitalism that is currently missing from our world:
Transparency and accountability are essential to a healthy capitalism.
And right now, they’re missing.
The “problems” that corporate business has with government regulation are self-generated. If businesses ran openly, with complete transparency and personal accountability in place, most government-mandated regulation would be unnecessary.
However, as the financial industry illustrated quite clearly in 1929 and in 2008, regulation is necessary because that industry failed to regulate itself and failed to act in a moral manner. Further, the banks in particular refused to see what their less scrupulous financial competitors were doing, and did it themselves.
And guess what, folks? This is exactly what the Occupy movement is demanding! Not “gimme money!”, or “eat the rich!”, or “burn it down!” All that Occupy wants is for there to be a level playing ground for getting ahead in this world. As the 1970’s PSA used to say about blacks, “All they want is the best job they’re qualified for, the best house they can afford, and the best education they can swing for their kids.”