Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What was the Square Deal?

In 1902, while running for a second term as president, Theodore Roosevelt defined one of his policies called the "Square Deal." In this philosophy, Roosevelt believed that growth was natural and that organizations within the American capitalist system would counterbalance each other: "big labor would counterbalance big capital...and so on" (Davidson 650). While private corporations would have power, the federal government would be ready to step in to solve problems and to make sure the system was fair to all.

I believe Roosevelt's square deal policy had more negative results than positive. For one, Roosevelt was often willing to use federal troops to end strikes. I believe this was both ethically wrong and unconstitutional. Under the first amendment, individuals have the right to peacefully assemble; specifically, Congress cannot make any law "respecting" this right. Using federal troops to break up strikes is unconstitutional as federal troops are maintained and were created by Congress. The use of force by the government only made it more difficult in the future for citizens to make substantive changes in the economic system. Secondly, although Roosevelt did not oppose business monopolies, he often supported legislation that made it more difficult for true competition to occur in the marketplace. He supported the creation of a Department of Commerce, enacted the Elkins Act, and compromised with the Hepburn Railway Act.

Davidson, James, Brian Delay, Christine Heyrman, Mark Lytle, and Michael Stoff, Nation of Nations: A Narrative History of the American Republic Volume II: Since 1865. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

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