Explain the different attitudes Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Eugene Debs had toward the trusts.U.S. History

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A thorough and detailed examination of the positions the three candidates is going to possess more support and references than can be present here.  Yet, in an overview manner, the differences between the three candidates in their positions on trusts reflected the spectrum of political beliefs.  On the left side of the spectrum was the Socialist Candidate, Debs, who was advocating a socialist platform where industrial wealth would be distributed equally via the state.  His position on trusts was to nationalize all businesses, eliminating any threat of monopoly and collusion.  Business possessed a natural antipathy towards Debs' position of using government as a tool to nationalize privatized wealth.  Roosevelt's "trust busting" policies were actually more regulative.  He understood that trusts and industries were important, as they helped to play an integral role in minimizing business surplus and waste and helped to streamline industry.  Unlike his fellow Republican Taft, Roosevelt wanted to regulate the trusts, understanding their role and purpose but seeking to use government as more of a referee than Debs' vision of the controlling nature of government.  Businesses were not too keen on being controlled, and did not favor much of regulation.  Wilson's position on trusts was more "pro business" than either of the previous two approaches.  Realizing that government lacked  the facilities to actively pursue an effective policy of trust regulation and understanding that Wilson could ill afford lose the support of the business community, he advocated a policy which eliminated some of the objectionable practices of businesses (price controls, the use of privileged information in acquing companies), but also maintained business freedom to continue their practices in the free market.  Wilson sought to establish a governmental agency, the Federal Trade Commission, which was to oversee business practices.  The realization of these policy goals, embodied in the Clayton AntiTrust Act, were articulated in his campaign where he sought a middle ground between the Socialist and redistributive Debs and the Republican/ Bull Moose tenets of government regulation.

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