The present economic order, with its face turned away from equality of opportunity, involves a bitter moral wrong, which must be corrected for moral reasons and along moral lines. It must be corrected with justness and firmness, but not bitterly, for that would be to lower the Nation to the moral level of the evil which we have set ourselves to fight.
This is the doctrine of the Square Deal. It contains the germ of industrial liberty. Its partisans are the many, its opponents are the few. I am firm in the faith that the great majority of our people are Square Dealers.
The business of the people of the United States, performed by the Government of the United States, is a vast and a most important one; it is the house-keeping of the American Nation. As a business proposition it does not attract anything like the attention that it ought. Unfortunately we have come into the habit of considering the Government of the United States as a political organization rather than as a business organization.
Now this question, which the Governors of the States and the representatives of great interests were called to Washington to consider in 1908, is fundamentally a business question, and it is along business lines that it must be considered and solved, if the problem is to be solved at all. Manufacturers are dealing with the necessity for producing a definite output as a result of definite expenditure and definite effort. The Government of the United States is doing exactly the same thing. The manufacturer’s product can be measured in dollars and cents. The product of the Government of the United States can be measured partly in dollars and cents, but far more importantly in the welfare and contentment and happiness of the people over which it is called upon to preside.
The keynote of that Conservation Conference in Washington was forethought and foresight. The keynote of success in any line of life, or one of the great keynotes, must be forethought and foresight. If we, as a Nation, are to continue the wonderful growth we have had, it is forethought and foresight which must give us the capacity to go on as we have been going. I dwell on this because it seems to me to be one of the most curious of all things in the history of the United States to-day that we should have grasped this principle so tremendously and so vigorously in our daily lives, in the conduct of our own business, and yet have failed so completely to make the obvious application in the things which concern the Nation.
It is curiously true that great aggregations of individuals and organized bodies are apt to be less far-sighted, less moral, less intelligent along certain lines than the individual citizen; or at least that their standards are lower; a principle which is illustrated by the fact that we have got over settling disputes between individuals by the strong hand, but not yet between nations.