The Trusts in American Life and Politics


"The Trust Issue" may have been the most seriously discussed subject of the 1912 campaign.  Americans worried about the growth of large business firms, and the power they held in American society.  They asked important questions about the future of their business system in 1912 especially, and in the Progressive era in general.

Should a democratic society allow one company to become so big it controlled an entire industry (a monopoly)?  Should a free nation allow a handful of large companies to control an entire industry (an oligopoly)?

To what extent should a free people empower their government to regulate businesses?   In any regulatory system, who should do the regulating?  The states?  The federal government?  The legislative branch?  The executive branch?  The judicial branch?  A fourth branch of government, the independent regulatory commission?

In the United States, "We the people" command all authority.  Businesses obtain their right to exist from the people.  Should the state government continue to charter businesses through incorporation, or should the federal government charter some businesses, and thereby control them?

Should we adopt the Socialist position and have government ownership of the basic means of production, distribution and transportation, and financing in the economy?

Later generations of American might take the answers to these questions for granted.   In 1912, however, they were topics of lively discussion.

Please join us in some of that discussion.

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