June 26, 2010
Conservation and Eugenics: The environmental movement's dirty secret
From Orion Magazine:
THE RAIN HAD JUST STOPPED in the little eastern Kansas town of Osawatomie when thirty thousand people, gathered in an atmosphere not unlike that of a country fair, fell quiet. Their hero, former president Teddy Roosevelt, climbed atop a kitchen table and began to speak in a high, almost falsetto voice, orating amid cheering for ninety minutes. When finished, he had delivered the most controversial and influential address of his career, in which he described a radical new program that was both denounced and celebrated in newspapers across the country. The date was August 31, 1910. The New Nationalism Speech, as it came to be known, emphasized conservation, as did most of Roosevelt’s speeches written by his friend Gifford Pinchot, who had been his conservation chief for the two terms of his presidency. But it also newly placed the “moral issue” and “patriotic duty” of conservation into the context of a racial conversation, as well as a much broadened concept of progressivism.
In appealing to the folks in Osawatomie, Roosevelt went well beyond the program he had pursued in office, proposing a powerful national government strong enough to address many of its citizens’ problems. In this new regime, government would be a general antidote to corporate power. Federal programs would control wages and hours, health, and corporate governance. The government would take over utilities and railroads if necessary to stop monopolies. Corporate political contributions would be limited and publicly reported. Most radically, this vastly empowered national government would transform America’s economy to reward only merit, using graduated estate and income taxes to pull down the fortunes of the very rich.
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