Adventures with the Mojave Phone Booth book now available Deuce of Clubs Book Club: Books of the Weak

To Deuce of Clubs index page

Bully Boy: The Truth About Theodore Roosevelt's Legacy

Jim Powell (2006)


"I don't think that any harm comes from the concentration of power in one man's hands." — Theodore Roosevelt (1)

So what did Theodore Roosevelt actually do?
** Roosevelt declared that the United States must carry out "the proper policing of the world." To him can be traced the doctrine that America should enter other people's wars. Since his time, the United States has become involved in dozens of wars, and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers have died in wars that had little, if anything, to do with U.S. national security.
** Taxes are the biggest financial burden for most Americans—bigger than housing, food, health care, or anything else. Theodore Roosevelt inspired the successful campaign to enact one of the biggest and most intrusive of our taxes, the federal income tax. Originally intended to "soak the rich," this tax ended up soaking all Americans.
** Roosevelt has enjoyed a reputation as a "trustbuster," a foe of monopoly, but in fact he promoted monopolies. He authorized price-fixing, and his antitrust policy turned out to be an anticompetitive weapon for high-cost producers to secure benefits they couldn't gain in the marketplace. The policy has disrupted markets and destroyed jobs.
** Roosevelt demanded regulations that crippled America's biggest industry—the railroads—by undermining its ability to raise capital. The trend toward more and more costly government regulations, creating obstacles to growth and jobs, began with him.
** He signed a "pure food" law that led to increasing numbers of federal regulations pertaining to food and drugs. Regulations did little for pure food and a lot for special interests (like dairy farmers) who wanted to strike blows at their competitors (like margarine producers). To protect people from bad drugs, the federal government has sharply increased the costs of developing new drugs, and it has blocked access to good drugs, contributing to the deaths of thousands.
** In the name of "conservation," Theodore Roosevelt squandered huge amounts of money and degraded much of our natural environment. He launched a federal dam-building program that flooded canyons, disrupted natural water flows, silted up waterways, raised water temperatures, lost huge amounts of water through evaporation, and increased the salinity of irrigated soil so much that very little could grow on it. Roosevelt's national forest policies contributed to overgrazing of grasslands and to forest fires of unprecedented ferocity. (2-4)

During the postwar years, many Americans looked to government for solutions to their problems. In 1865, Illinois governor Richard Yates remarked that "The war ... has tended, more than any other event in the history of our country, to militate against the Jeffersonian idea, that 'the best government is that which governs least.' The war has not only, of necessity, given more power to, but has led to a more intimate provision of the government over every material interest of society."
Before the Civil War, the most revered of the American Founders was Thomas Jefferson. His antislavery writings had inspired the abolitionists, and his other writings—especially the Declaration of Independence—articulated a compelling vision of a libertarian, democratic society with a government of strictly limited powers. But after the war, Jefferson's reputation plummeted. Nobody wanted to hear about Jefferson, who had defended the right to secede from the Union, after some 625,000 people had been killed in the war to preserve the Union. As Theodore Roosevelt's contemporary, the historian Henry Adams, remarked: It was "always safe to abuse Jefferson. " (22)

On April 11, McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war. Eight days later, after jingo journalism had whipped up public hysteria for war, the Senate approved by a surprisingly close vote of 42 to 35. If four senators had cast votes for peace, America might have avoided a war. The government began assembling ships and men for an assault on Cuba.
Theodore Roosevelt had his wish. (52-3)

Roosevelt subsequently lobbied aggressively to have himself awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. But he was denied, perhaps because he had served for only two weeks and his exploits were limited to a single day. More than a century later, Roosevelt was awarded a Medal of Honor posthumously by President Bill Clinton. (58)

On August 12, the day that Spain surrendered, McKinley capped his triumph by seizing Hawaii. "We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California," he declared. "It is Manifest Destiny." Congress passed a joint resolution for annexation of the islands, and McKinley signed it. Former president Grover Cleveland reflected: ''As I look back upon the first steps in this miserable business, I am ashamed of the whole affair." [See An Honest President] (58)

Upon taking office, [Roosevelt] affirmed his solidarity with other imperialist powers: "It is infinitely better for the whole world that Russia should have taken Turkestan, that France should have taken Algiers, and that England should have taken India." He declared that the United States must rule the Philippines with a firm hand: "we must treat them with firmness and courage. They must be made to realize ... that we are the masters." (63)

Theodore Roosevelt enthusiastically defended the American conquest of the Philippines. He viewed Filipinos as "Tagal bandits," "Malay bandits," "Chinese halfbreeds," or "savages, barbarians, a wild and ignorant people." Roosevelt believed that "the most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages." (64)

Torture became an accepted method of prompting Filipino villagers to disclose what they knew about the identity of guerrilla leaders and the location of their supplies. One witness described the method known as the "water cure": "The victim is laid flat on his back and held down by his tormenters. Then a bamboo tube is thrust into his mouth and some dirty water, the filthier the better, is poured down his unwilling throat." (65)

Roosevelt compared his action toward Panama with Thomas Jefferson's acquisition of the Louisiana territory. But Roosevelt glossed over the fact that the United States paid France $15 million for Louisiana but seized land from Colombia. (75)

Theodore Roosevelt bragged about wielding a "big stick" against the "mighty industrial overlords." He denounced free markets as "a riot of individualistic materialism." He declared that "individualism proved to be both futile and mischievous." He criticized the courts, which he called "agents of reaction ... hostile to the interests of the people ... impotent to deal with the great business combinations."
How did businesses harm consumers? Did they charge high prices? Did they cut back output? Did they sell shoddy products? Did they drive down wages and make Americans poorer? Roosevelt never made any such charges, although he spoke ominously about "the evil done by the big combinations." His only specific charge was that entrepreneurs "demanded for themselves an immunity from governmental control which, if granted, would have been as wicked and as foolish as immunity to the barons of the twelfth century." In his most outrageous rhetorical outburst, he said that "of all the forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy."
It is curious indeed that Roosevelt claimed the moral high ground to attack alleged private monopolists when the government itself was the principal source of monopolies in America. There were government school monopolies in every state, for which millions of people were forced to pay taxes whether they used the schools or not. The federal government enforced its monopoly on handling first-class mail. Theodore Roosevelt promoted a federal dam-building monopoly, and he supported the progressive movement to establish a government power-generating monopoly. The federal government acted in restraint of international trade by enforcing tariffs that forced consumers to pay as much as 100 percent more for essentials like clothing. (77-8)

This was an era of intense competition, not monopoly. Whereas monopolies try to curtail output and put upward pressure on prices, output soared, putting downward pressure on prices. (79)

Moreover, companies prospered when they were able to develop good brand names, because people became repeat buyers of products they had confidence in. Marketing goods to repeat buyers was much cheaper than finding new customers, so companies had an incentive to keep repeat buyers satisfied by offering quality products. Department stores such as Macy's (New York), John Wanamaker's (Philadelphia), and Marshall Field's (Chicago) prospered by establishing themselves as sellers of brand names. (83)

[James J.] Hill was very proud that the Great Northern "was built without any government aid, even the right of way, through hundreds of miles of public lands, being paid for in cash. Hill spent his time running a railroad, not lobbying politicians for favors. He mainly wanted to be left alone. Hill's success was proof that neither government land grants nor subsidies were needed to build successful railroads. Indeed, the experience of the Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, Sante Fe, and other railroads seemed to suggest that subsidies undermined incentives for railroads to root out incompetence and corruption. (98)

Theodore Roosevelt's most famous, and strangest, antitrust lawsuit was against John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil companies. Although the federal government had been a principal culprit responsible for forcing up consumer prices through corruption, tariffs, taxes, and wars, Roosevelt claimed the government had moral standing to assert control over the private sector—and Standard Oil made for an ideal scapegoat.
Roosevelt's attorney general William H. Moody filed a 170-page "bill" on November 15, 1906. It charged that Standard Oil was a monopoly acting "in restraint of trade." Roosevelt called Standard Oil's directors "the biggest criminals in the country." Yet the number of oil refineries was increasing, the price of Standard Oil's principal product, kerosene, was falling, and kerosene accounted for a declining share of the market for petroleum products. Moreover, Standard Oil had not tried to get the government to restrict barriers to entry by means of regulations, tariffs, or other measures. Standard Oil competed aggressively in a marketplace relatively free from political interference. (106-7)

Roosevelt knew little about business, as his disastrous ranching losses made clear, and he certainly never seems to have thought about the function of prices in an economy. Nobody could possibly agree on millions of railroad rates, but Roosevelt imagined government bureaucrats could somehow determine how much the railroads should charge when shipping iron ore from Minnesota or anthracite coal from Virginia or corn from Iowa or dressed beef from Chicago or thousands of other products in either new cars that required less handling or older cars that required more hanlling, via the slowest route or the fastest route, to the least efficient or most efficient port. Roosevelt believed that the government could manipulate prices without consequences. He had what historian Albro Martin called the exhilarating notion that men who lacked the experience, the economic power, and the enlightened self-interest of the leaders of big business could nevertheless establish the patterns by which great aggregates of property fitted into the nation's economy." (121)

A major problem with government-run projects was that people generally didn't spend other people's money as carefully as they spent their own. Private individuals had incentives both to (1) take advantage of opportunities that could generate profits and (2) be wary of high-risk situations in which they could lose their own money. There was bound to be much more carelessness in a government project than in a privately run project.
Moreover, private individuals were more likely to make decisions based on merit rather than decisions based on political considerations. Politicians insisted that a railroad go through certain towns for political reasons, even though the towns were not likely to generate enough freight or passenger traffic to justify the cost of construction. Politicians made sure that their political supporters were hired for government projects, despite any lack of competence. Politically connected contractors were hired for construction. When cost overruns occurred, governments imposed little financial discipline, perhaps because they were spending taxpayers' money and not their own. Government-run projects abounded with incompetence and corruption. (125-6)

Far from being evil monopolies, as Theodore Roosevelt claimed, railroads actually undermined monopolies. They provided faster transportation than was available with wagons or barges. They made it possible for farmers to sell to distant markets and for consumers to buy goods from far away and not be limited to locally produced goods.
Before the coming of the railroad, millions of Americans had to deal with all sorts of local monopolies. Economic historian Stanley Lebergott noted that "The United States had been pock-marked by local monopolies of blacksmiths, wheelwrights, millers, retail grocers, cigar workers, physicians, cobblers. Outsiders could not profitably ship their goods, or bring their services in, to compete with these monopolistic craftsmen and handicraft workers. Railroads introduced competing products from a dozen states into every county along or near their lines. They carried the products of new competitors into every region in the nation." (129)

In the decades after it was established, the Interstate Commerce Commission did nothing to help expand or improve America's transportation network. The ICC did nothing to help develop the American market or raise living standards. Initially an obstacle to competition, with Theodore Roosevelt's support, the ICC became a threat to the survival of the railroads, a drag on the entire economy, and proof of the bankruptcy of progressive ideas. (151)

Theodore Roosevelt had little apparent concern about the safety of American food until some muckraking journalists began to allege that monstrous things were going on. Then he decided he must rush to the rescue. Once again, Roosevelt assumed the solution would be to increase government power. He urged more "supervision and control by the National Government over corporations engaged in interstate business." He contributed to the myth that wicked capitalists were making fortunes selling unsafe food to Americans and that high-minded government regulators serving the public interest were hard at work to safeguard the American people.
In fact, the biggest advances in food safety owed nothing to government regulation. Many occurred long before Theodore Roosevelt became president and were achieved by private, profit-seeking entrepreneurs. The main effect of food safety laws and regulations was to intensify the political struggles of various interest groups for commercial advantage. (152)

Butter was another health concern at the time. Traditionally, it was churned by farm women, sold to local merchants, and offered or resold without much regard for proper preservation. There were many complaints—from Uncle Tom's Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others—that rancid butter posed a serious risk to health. In 1873, Hippolyte Mege-Mouries, a French food chemist, secured a U.S. patent for an inexpensive alternative to butter made with beef fat and flavored with milk and other substances. By 1900, there were almost three dozen patents related to what came to be known as margarine (the name deriving from the ingredient margaric acid). Costing about a third less than butter, margarine was most appreciated by working-class people, who spent an estimated 40 to 50 percent of their incomes on food. When the dairy industry lobbied state legislatures for protection, state governments began passing laws outlawing margarine. More laws may have been passed against margarine than against any other food product in American history. (157)

Warnings about "adulterated food" soon became a strategy for exploiting consumers, starting with tea drinkers. There were efforts to start growng tea in the United States. The climate was suitable in South Carolina, but the cost of cultivating and harvesting tea there would be perhaps eight times higher than in East Asia. U.S. tea producers could survive only if American consumers were prevented from buying imported teas at lower prices. On March 3, 1883, the Tea Act "to prevent the importation of impure and unwholesome tea" became law. On March 2, 1897, "An Act to prevent the importation of adulterated and spurious teas" became law. The fact that it was to be enforced by the secretary of the treasury suggests that its principal purpose was to protect domestic tea producers, principally in South Carolina, from overseas competition.
By this time, progressives had begun to focus on dietary reform. They recommended consumption of 3,500 calories a day, including 125 grams of protein, 125 grams of fat, and 450 grams of carbohydrates—numbers that would raise more than a few eyebrows today. From a "scientific" standpoint, vegetables were considered a waste of money because they did not have many calories. Ethnic food was condemned as "unscientific." (169)

At this point, Theodore Roosevelt, who could not restrain himsetf from interfering with anything, became involved in the controversy. The president of the United States ruled that corn syrup looked like syrup and came from corn so it could be called corn syrup. In February 13, 1908, the secretaries of agriculture, the treasury, and commerce signed Food Inspection Decision 87: "In our opinion it is lawful to label this sirup as Corn Sirup." (176)

The progressive idea of subsidized living in the desert was extraordinarily wasteful. Reisner described what the city of Los Angeles had to build to complete the aqueduct from the Owens River: 120 miles of railroad, 500 miles of roads, 240 miles of telephone line, 170 miles of power lines, a huge concrete plant to support all this construction, two hydroelectric plants to run the machinery. It took several thousand workers six full years to complete the project.
Roosevelt played an important role suppressing water markets. Fred Eaton, who had spent his own money acquiring Owens River water rights on behalf of Los Angeles, for which he was later compensated, wanted to operate the Owens Valley end of the aqueduct as a private business. This probably would have meant market prices for water. But Roosevelt backed the view that the municipal government of Los Angeles should monopolize the entire aqueduct system, thereby ensuring that the price of water would be politically driven below costs, providing incentives for more people to move to Los Angeles and make the water situation worse. (199)

Theodore Roosevelt revived the idea of a federal income after it had been given up for dead. In December 1906, le declared that "there is every reason why, when next our system of taxation is revised, the National Government should impose a graduated inheritance tax, and, if possible, a graduated income tax." (211)

The income tax enacted during the Civil War to raise revenue was repealed in 1872, but farmers in the West and South hoped to revive it so they could push the cost of government onto somebody else. (212)

Newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer, who loved to go on crusades for reform, embraced the income tax. In 1883, he urged: "Tax luxuries. Tax inheritances. Tax large incomes. Tax monopolies. Tax the privileged corporation."
Columbia University economist Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman, another prominent income tax advocate, envisioned "a system of taxation which no one could escape." He conceded that political support for an income tax was based on envy of businesspeople and others who anticipated market trends and prospered. Undoubtedly, too, government officials wanted an income tax because of its potential to generate more government revenue. (213)

An income tax inevitably meant being rough with people—snooping into their private business, inflicting fines and prison terms on those who objected. It is a supreme irony that the advocates of more government interference with private life styled themselves "progressives" and that an income tax with graduated (discriminatory) rates become known as "progressive." (214)

[Professional moron William Jennings] Bryan claimed Adam Smith, the author of Wealth of Nations (1776) and a champion of laissez-faire, as a backer of the income tax. Bryan quoted Smith as saying, "The subjects of every State ought to contribute to the support of the Government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities."
That gross misrepresentation of Smith's ideas reveals the desperation of those who promoted an income tax. In Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith provided an insightful commentary on the problems with various taxes: "Capitation taxes, if it is attempted to proportion them to the fortune or revenue of each contributor, become alogether arbitrary. The state of a man's fortune varies from day to day, and without an inquisition more intolerable than any tax, and renewed at least once every year, can only be guessed at. His assessment, therefore, must in most cases depend upon the good or bad humour of his assessors, and must, therefore, be altogether arbitrary and uncertain. Smith also anticipated some of the reasons why the income tax is widely hated: "An inquisition into every man's private circumstances, and an inquisition which, in order to accommodate the tax to them, watched over all the fluctuations of his fortune, would be a source of such continual and endless vexation as no people could support." (215)

In an effort to win votes for the income tax, politicians made fantastic claims. Congressman David A. De Armond of Missouri topped even the rhetorical excesses of William Jennings Bryan, proclaiming: "The passage of the bill will mark the dawn of a brighter day, with more of sunshine, more of songs of birds, more of the sweetest music, the laughter of children well fed, well clothed, well housed. Can we doubt that in the brighter, happier days to come, good, even-handed, wholesome Democracy shall be triumphant?"
After the House passed the income tax bill by a large majority, William Jennings Bryan and Congressman. Henry St. George Tucker of Virginia carried Ways and,Means chairman McMillin out of the House chamber on their shoulders as members cheered. The New York Tribune exulted that the House had "hatched a Populist chicken."
The Senate subsequently passed the income tax bill by a big enough margin to overcome a veto by President Grover Cleveland. The income tax became law on August 20, 1894, without the president's signature. (216-17)

[Joseph H.] Choate took his arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court. He thundered against the thievery that resulted when some people enacted taxes to be paid by other people: "If it goes out as the edict of this judicial tribunal [the Supreme Court] that a combination of States, however numerous, can unite against the safeguards provided by the Constitution in imposing a tax which is to be paid by the people in four States or in three States or in two States, but of which the combination is to pay almost no part, while in the spending of it they are to have the whole control, it will be impossible to take any backward step. You cannot hereafter exercise any check if you say now that Congress is untrammeled and uncontrollable." Choate also warned that an income tax would open the door to attacks on private property and to increases in federal spending. He declared, "I do not believe that any member of the Court ever has sat or ever will sit to hear and decide a case the consequences of which will be so far-reaching as this.
In a moment of candor, Seligman remarked that "it is undoubtedly a fact that the enthusiasm for the tax came chiefly from those who were thus assured freedom from its burdens." U.S. Attorney General Richard Olney, who took the lead defending the income tax, acknowledged that "an income tax is preeminently a tax upon the rich." (218-9)

In April 1906, in a speech at the laying of the cornerstone of the House Office Building, Roosevelt seemingly out of the blue urged "the adoption of some such scheme as that of a progressive tax on all fortunes beyond a certain amount either given in life or devised or bequeathed upon death to any individual—a tax so framed as to put it out of the power of the owner of one of these enormous fortunes to hand on more than a certain amount to any one individual; the tax, of course, to be imposed by the National and not the State government." Democrats were thrilled. Many Republicans were horrified. The Philadelphia Record editorialized that Roosevelt provided "more encouragement to state socialism and centralization of government than all the frothy demagogues have accomplished in a quarter-century."(222-3)

Although progressives considered themselves champions of democracy and had been urging that US. senators be elected by the people rather than by state legislatures, they went to great pains to minimize public discussion of the new taxes they were pushing through Congress. (228-9)

President Richard Nixon's Endangered Species Act (1973) has had the unintended effect of accelerating the destruction of species, because it imposes on private landowners the cost of maintaining a species. If an endangered species is believed to be in an area, the law gives landowners incentives to destroy the trees or whatever a species might need, rather than have regulations immobilize land and impose losses on the owner. (244)

Theodore Roosevelt's successors have continued the trust-busting crusade he started. One of the most bizarre antitrust cases involved Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America). Alcoa achieved dominance in the aluminum industry by managing its operations efficiently and pursuing new technologies that enabled it to extract alumina from low-grade ores. In 1941, four years after the Justice Department filed a complaint against the company, Judge Learned Hand of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York, Connecticut, and Vermont) ordered that Alcoa be broken up. Judge Hand conceded that Alcoa had pioneered the aluminum business, expanded output, and cut prices (aluminum declined from $2 per pound during the 1890s to about 22 cents when the case went to trial). He also conceded that Alcoa had conducted its business fairly. The company should be broken up, he said, because it was so successful. He deliberately overstated Alcoa's market share by counting only the market for primary ingot aluminum and disregarding the market for scrap aluminum.
Judge Hand faulted Alcoa for taking the initiative to expand and keep introducing new technologies: "Nothing compelled it to keep doubling and redoubling its capacity before others entered the field," he wrote. "It insists that it never excluded competitors; but we can think of no more effective exclusion than progressively to embrace each new opportunity as it opened and to face every newcomer with new capacity already geared into a greater organization, having the advantage of experience, trade connections, and elite personnel." (248-9)

Supposedly a champion of "conservation," Theodore Roosevelt may be responsible for more environmental destruction than any other U.S. president. The worst corporate polluters were pikers compared to Theodore Roosevelt.
The fatal flaw of Roosevelt's conservation policies was the assumption that there was only one right way to do things and it should be enforced everywhere. When bad decisions were made, they harmed not only a locality or a region but the entire country. Because bureaucracies have aggressively pursued their interests, always seeking bigger staffs, bigger, budgets, and more power, it has been almost impossible to alter bad decisions or repeal bad programs. (256-7)

In 1902, when Roosevelt established the Bureau of Reclamation, he said that the federal government's taxing power would be used to transfer vast resources from more productive uses in the East to less productive uses in the West. He specifically channeled funds into the highest-cost type of farming—farming in deserts—when more efficient types of farming were producing food in ever greater abundance. Over the years, the government has continued this inefficient policy. The Bureau of Reclamation has built more than six hundred dams around the United States, destroying beautiful valleys, building up salinity in irrigated soil, and drying up rivers. In August 2002, Barry Nelson of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote, "Nothing demonstrates [the Bureau of Reclamation's] antiquated policies more dramatically than the fact that the Colorado River ... often no longer flows to the sea." The bureau also wastes stupendous amounts of water by building reservoirs in hot, arid regions, where water standing out in the sun simply evaporates. In 1997 in testimony before a House subcommittee, Sierra Club president Adam Werbach reported the Lake Powell reservoir in Arizona loses nearly 1 million acre-feet of water per year, enough for a city the size of Los Angeles."
Why does Theodore Roosevelt's disastrous dam-building program continue? It continues because western farmers who benefit from the subsidies aggressively defend it. According to the Western Water Alliance, in Seattle, "the subsidies go well beyond the interest subsidy originally built into the Reclamation program." Congress has given irrigators as much as forty extra years to repay the capital cost of projects. "Moreover, if the repayment price for water exceeds an irrigator's 'ability to pay,' the Bureau transfers the balance to project power users .... The Bureau also charges the lowest possible 'power project' rates for the energy required to pump water to its customers—a tiny fraction of market rates for that electrical power." With these and many other cushy regulations and loopholes in place, it is little wonder that recipients of the government's largesse lobby vigorously to preserve the federal program.
Government-subsidized water made it possible to grow palm trees in the desert and spurred a great migration to California. The pressure on scarce water supplies intensified, all because of subsidies that shielded people from the full cost of living in the desert. Far fewer people would have made the move if they had known they would have to pay steep prices for water. Incredibly, despite California's dramatic population growth, agriculture-subsidized irrigation continues to consume about 80 percent of the state's water.
By establishing the federal government's monopoly control of millions of acres of national forests, Theodore Roosevelt ensured the vast degradation of America's natural environment. The national forests, another of Roosevelt's supposed achievements, have suffered the fate of all common property: It's in all users' interest to take as much as they can and in nobody's interest to spend money to maintain the value of common property, because someone else would gain the benefit of any investment. From the very beginning, overgrazing has plagued national forests. In 1918, Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis identified the problem when he wrote the majority opinion in Omaechevarria v. State of Idaho. Cattle and sheep graze "on the public domain of the United States," Brandeis wrote. "This is done with the government's acquiescence, without the payment of compensation, and without federal regulation." Some forty years later, historian Wesley Calef complained that the politically weak Bureau of Land Management "does not exert sufficient control over range grazing use to insure conservation of the federal lands."
That's not all. There have been unintended consequences of federal bureaucrats' decision to suppress forest fires. Before this, frequent, low-intensity fires typically thinned out forests and replenished the soil. Fire suppression has resulted in much denser growth and ever-decreasing amounts of sunlight reaching the forest floor. Large numbers of trees have died, creating a dangerous buildup of tinder. When fires do occur, they tend to be large and hard to control; they destroy essential microorganisms, sterilizing the soil and making it more vulnerable to erosion; and they destroy species that would have survived low-intensity fires. Excessive density also has contributed to widespread insect infestation in national forests. According to economist Robert H. Nelson, "On the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico, 57 percent of the ponderosa pine acreage is infected with round-headed beetles."
By contrast, privately owned forests tend to be intensively managed, because it's in the self-interest of owners—whether a paper company or a timber company—to maintain the value of their assets. One can tell from an airplane window whether one is flying over a national forest or a privately managed forest. For instance, Nelson explained: "Idaho national forests have 33 percent greater wood volume per acre than state and private forests. The state and private forests have in general been more intensively managed, involving higher timber harvest levels per acre and greater application of labor and capital for thinning, disease control, reforestation, and other purposes." Also: "There is wide agreement that the national forests are a greater fire hazard than industry forests, mostly because intensive private forest management prevented the fuel buildup that has occurred on the federal lands." (257-60)

By 1942, the income tax became the federal government's biggest source of revenue. It was no longer paid only by a few rich people as in Theodore Roosevelt's day. The income tax was a people's tax. During World War II, everybody had to pay a federal income tax. Everybody was subject to the exasperating complexity of tax regulations. Everybody had to suffer the indignities ot tax audits and other Internal Revenue Service intrusions into personal life, thanks to Theodore Roosevelt and his fellow progressives.
In 2002, 11.3 million business returns and 130.3 million personal income tax returns were filed. Most of those taxpayers weren't rich. Economist James L. Payne has identified more than thirty costs incurred by taxpayers to comply with tax regulations. Among them are costs for tax planning, record keeping, data processing, filling out forms, audit preparation, and appeals preparation. According to Payne's estimate, in 1993 the cost of compliance—borne by taxpayers—was approximately equal to 65 percent, of the proceeds from the personal income tax. (264-5)

Contrary to what Theodore Roosevelt claimed, the weak are best protected from the strong by strict limits on government power. The strong tend to do well in any society. When government expands, the strong, with their lawyers and lobbyists, gain more power than they would otherwise have. They get laws and regulations serving their interests at the expense of everyone else. We vould all be better off with fewer burdens on our backs and strangers in our pockets.
What we need, most of all, is liberty and peace. (267)

Buy this book

To Deuce of Clubs