FDR’s frustration with business associations

October 12, 2012

Business Ethics, Politics

Some background: Poor business practices plunged the United States into the Great Depression during the 1930’s – much like poor business practices ignited the recent Great Recession.  Then, as now, businesses were rescued by the federal government.  Then, as now, many business associations turned on the government.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt penned this letter to Thomas J. Watson of IBM, who regretted the sweeping criticisms of the US Chamber of Commerce (quoted in Arthur M. Schlesinger’s The Politics of Upheaval):

“It makes me very sad that because of the action of a few Associations the country as a whole has it pretty well in mind that businessmen are “agin” every improvement had have been consistently for more than a generation.  An actual inspection of the record will show, for example, that our own Chamber of Commerce in New York has a one hundred per cent record of opposition to things like factory inspection, excessive hours, elimination of child labor, old age pensions, unemployment insurance – year after year the same old  story.  They may have been right in opposing some of the measures but certainly not the great majority of them.  Furthermore, in all this time, the same Chamber has never yet initiated and pressed one single item of social betterment.”

It seems little has changed since the 1930’s.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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