In times of economic stress—particularly if they verge on a national election— the fancy of thoughtful tycoons and ambitious politicians alike gravely turns to philosophizing about the relationship of Government to Big Business. One school of thought leans toward the old individualistic, laissez-faire policy, does not believe that Government and business should even be kissing cousins. The other, paternal, faintly socialistic, feels that the Government and industry should at least take up with one another, if not actually marry. Last week each school had a potent spokesman.
Don't Cripple It! Governor Albert Cabell Ritchie of Maryland went to Atlantic City to address the utilities section of the American Bar Association. He took Power as his text, but delivered a general industrial sermon: "The Power Question—Let Us Not Go Revolutionary." Excerpts:
"It is true that the manufacture of political issues has become something of a national industry, but I am as strong for politics—in a partisan sense—keeping out of the utilities as I am for utilities keeping out of politics. I have more confidence of a beneficial outcome under enlightened business leadership, with a minimum of governmental interference, than I have of getting very far by making this the football of politics and politicians. And without meaning to question anybody's sincerity, I may be permitted to wonder whether gentlemen who discourse so extravagantly and so passionately on the subject are not really laying down a barrage or smoke screen with which they hope to hide other issues—such, for example, as Prohibition—about which they may not think it politically wise to speak so boldly.*
"Our political ideal has always been to encourage private enterprise, to bestow upon it the earned rewards of brains and labor, and to keep open the door of opportunity. Here, I believe, is the key to material success. Here is a political ideal worth guarding and fighting for. . . .
"The national policy, it seems to me, must not be Government ownership. The capitalistic system has its defects of course—periods of enforced unemployment are perhaps the worst—but it has centuries of evolutionary growth back of it, and under it we have come to lead the nations of the world in every form of progress. I do not believe in crippling it!"