Spalding traces the roots of American progressives to German thinkers who believed in the "Administrative State." Here, government is controlled by administrators and "experts," rather than officials elected to represent the people. Spalding also notes that the Founders and the progressives differed in their view of the Constitution. Progressives believed in a "...
20th Century Quotes on Growth of Government
"So far as the Declaration of Independence was a theoretical document, that is its theory. Do we still hold it? Does the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence still live in our principles of action, in the things we do, in the purposes we applaud, in the measures we approve? It is not a question of piety. We are not bound to adhere to the doctrines held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence; we are as free as they were to make and unmake governments. We are not here to worship men or a document. But neither are we here to indulge in a mere rhetorical and uncritical eulogy. Every Fourth of July should be a time for examining our standards, our purposes, for determining afresh what principles, what forms of power we think most likely to effect our safety and happiness. That and that alone is the obligation the Declaration lays upon us. It is no fetish; its words lay no compulsion upon the thought of any free man; but it was drawn by men who thought, and it obliges those who receive its benefits to think likewise.
What then do we think of our safety and of our happiness, — of the principles of action and the forms of power we are using to secure them? That we have come to a new age and a new attitude towards questions of government, no one can doubt, — to new definitions of constitutional power, new conceptions of legislative object, new schemes of individual and corporate regulation. Upon what principle of change do we act? Do we act upon definite calculations of purpose, or do we but stumble hesitatingly upon expedients? To what statements of principle would a declaration of our reasons and purposes commit us before the world: to those the signers of the Declaration of Independence would have avowed, or to others very different and not at all novel in the political history of the world? This is not a party question: there is apparently little difference between parties in regard to it. It is a national question, — a question touching the political principles of America. We ought not to hesitate to avow a change, if change there is to be; but we should be ashamed to act in radical fashion and not know that there was a change. Precedent is at least a guide by which to determine our direction."
"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."
"I sign this bill with considerable hesitation, not because I dissent from the purpose of Congress to create a Department of Labor, but because I think that nine departments are enough for the proper administration of the government, and because I think that no new department ought to be created without a reorganization of all departments in the government and a redistribution of the bureaus between them. The distribution of bureaus between the existing departments is far from being economical or logical, and if there is one thing that is needed in the present situation it is a reorganization of our government on business principles and with a view to economy in the administration of the regular governmental machinery."
"A significant circumstance of the First Congress, one which ought never to be overlooked, lies in the fact that it resulted from the voluntary effort on the part of the people to redress their own grievances and remedy their own wrongs. We pay too little attention to the reserve power of the people to take care of themselves. We are too solicitous for government intervention, on the theory, first, that the people themselves are helpless, and second, that the Government has superior capacity for action. Often times both of these conclusions are wrong."
"I have mentioned the desirability for the people to keep control of their own Government and their own property, because I believe that is one of the American ideals of public welfare in harmony with the efforts of the first Continental Congress. They objected to small infractions, which would destroy great principles of liberty. Unless we can maintain the integrity of the courts, where the individual can secure his rights, any kind of tyranny may follow. If the people lose control of the arteries of trade; and the natural sources of mechanical power, the nationalization of all industry could soon be expected. Our forefathers were alert to resist all encroachments upon their rights. If we wish to maintain our rights, we can do no less. Through the breaking down of the power of the courts lies an easy way to the confiscation of the property and the destruction of the liberty of the individual. With railways and electrical utilities under political control, the domination of a group would be so firmly entrenched in the whole direction of our Government, that the privilege of citizenship for the rest of the people would consist largely in the payment of taxes. The Fathers sought to escape from any such condition, through the guarantees of our Constitution. They put their faith in a free republic. If we wish to maintain what they established, we shall do well to leave the people in the ownership of their property, in control of their Government, and under the protection of their courts. By a resolute determination to resist all these encroachments we can best show our reverence and appreciation for the men and the work of the first Continental Congress."
"There has been with the years a gradual growth of the Government by the accretion in its departments and by independent executive establishments, boards, and commissions as problems requiring solution confront the President and the Congress. Today the Government embraces from 150 to 200 separate units, dependent on the method of notation used. Governmental units when once set up have a tendency to grow independently of other units. This leads to overlapping and waste. Moreover, there is a marked tendency to find new occupations when the initial duties are completed. The overlap and the number of agencies can be reduced."
"Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources."
"A national emergency productive of widespread unemployment and disorganization of industry, which burdens interstate and foreign commerce, affects the public welfare, and undermines the standards of living of the American people, is hereby declared to exist. It is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress to remove obstructions to the free flow of interstate and foreign commerce which tend to diminish the amount thereof; and to provide for the general welfare by promoting the organization of industry for the purpose of cooperative action among trade groups, to induce and maintain united action of labor and management under adequate governmental sanctions and supervision, to eliminate unfair competitive practices, to promote the fullest possible utilization of the present productive capacity of industries, to avoid undue restriction of production (except as may be temporarily required), to increase the consumption of industrial and agricultural products by increasing purchasing power, to reduce and relieve unemployment, to improve standards of labor, and otherwise to rehabilitate industry and to conserve natural resources."
"We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.
We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.
I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call.
A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation."
"To these objections we must answer again that bureaucracy in itself is neither good nor bad. It is a method of management which can be applied in different spheres of human activity. There is a field, namely, the handling of the apparatus of government, in which bureaucratic methods are required by necessity. What many people nowadays consider an evil is not bureaucracy as such, but the expansion of the sphere in which bureaucratic management is applied. This expansion is the unavoidable consequence of the progressive restriction of the individual citizen's freedom, of the inherent trend of present-day economic and social policies toward the substitution of government control for private initiative. People blame bureaucracy, but what they really have in mind are the endeavors to make the state socialist and totalitarian.
There has always been bureaucracy in America. The administration of the customs and of the foreign service has always been conducted according to bureaucratic principles. What characterizes our time is the expansion of the sphere of government interference with business and with many other items of the citizenry's affairs. And this results in a substitution of bureaucratic management for profit management."
"In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being. ...
I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights- for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do. Many of these problems are already before committees of the Congress in the form of proposed legislation. I shall from time to time communicate with the Congress with respect to these and further proposals. In the event that no adequate program of progress is evolved, I am certain that the Nation will be conscious of the fact.
Our fighting men abroad- and their families at home- expect such a program and have the right to insist upon it. It is to their demands that this Government should pay heed rather than to the whining demands of selfish pressure groups who seek to feather their nests while young Americans are dying."
"I think that such answer as I can give to your letter of November first will be arranged in reverse order--at least I shall comment first on your final paragraph.
You keep harping on the Constitution; I should like to point out that the meaning of the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is. Consequently no powers are exercised by the Federal government except where such exercise is approved by the Supreme Court (lawyers) of the land. ...
I admit that the Supreme Court has in the past made certain decisions in this general field that have been astonishing to me. A recent case in point was the decision in the Phillips case. ... Others, and older ones, involved 'interstate commerce.' ... But until some future Supreme Court decision denies the right and responsibility of the Federal government to do certain things, you cannot possibly remove them from the political activities of the Federal government."
"The fact is that the Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy. A governmentally established agency – the Federal Reserve System – had been assigned responsibility for monetary policy. In 1930 and 1931, it exercised this responsibility so ineptly as to convert what otherwise would have been a moderate contraction into a major catastrophe…. Similarly today, governmental measures constitute the major impediments to economic growth in the United States. Tariffs and other restrictions on international trade, high tax burdens and a complex and inequitable tax structure, regulatory commissions, government price and wage fixing, and a host of other measures give individuals an incentive to misuse and misdirect resources, and distort the investment of new savings. What we urgently need, for both economic stability and growth, is a reduction of government intervention not an increase."
"The first and most frequently asked question is: Is the Federal Government growing so large that our private economy is endangered?
My answer to that is no. The Federal Government has been growing for 175 years. Our population has grown even faster. Our territory and economy have grown and become more closely linked; the size of our business, labor, farm, and other establishments, and organizations, have grown. Above all, our responsibilities around the world have grown and our stake in world peace has grown immeasurably. Life itself is, more complex and the American people in the 20th century have come to expect more from governmental action.
But there has been no sudden spurt in the growth of Government under this administration. Leaving national security outlays aside, the Federal civilian expenditures today when measured, as they should be measured in a growing economy, as a percentage of our national output, are no higher than they were at the end of the Second World War. A mere 5 percent of our gross national product is not a threat to our economy."
"These are three of the central issues of the Great Society. While our Government has many programs directed at those issues, I do not pretend that we have the full answer to those problems. But I do promise this: We are going to assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America.
I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of White House conferences and meetings -- on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. And from these meetings and from this inspiration and from these studies we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.
The solution to these problems does not rest on a massive program in Washington, nor can it rely solely on the strained resources of local authority. They require us to create new concepts of cooperation, a creative federalism, between the National Capital and the leaders of local communities."
"In the last two decades the Federal Government has grown almost 500 percent, and that's several times as much as the country has grown. And so did the income tax payments of individual Americans.
Every generation faces its responsibility and ours, I think, is bringing government growth and taxation under control before it destroys everything that we hold dear."
"Federalism is rooted in the knowledge that our political liberties are best assured by limiting the size and scope of the national government."
"The growth of government has politicized life and weakened the nation's moral fabric. Government intervention—in the economy, in the community, and in society—has increased the payoff from political action and reduced the scope of private action. People have become more dependent on the State and have sacrificed freedom for a false sense of security."
"The story of the growth of the federal government can be divided into two parts: before and after 1913, when the 16th amendment to the Constitution, which permitted a federal income tax, was ratified. In 1913 federal spending was a mere 2.5 percent of GNP (today spending is almost ten times that level); so if the federal government is measured only by spending, little growth took place before the income tax. Before 1913, however, the federal government grew in other ways, by enlarging its power and changing its mandate. When the colonies came together to form the United States, the founders viewed the new government as the defender of its citizens' liberty. That meant protecting their rights-and in those days the most significant threat to the rights of individuals was, in nearly everyone's eyes, the government itself. By 1913 the federal government had been transformed into an organization not to protect rights, but, ostensibly, to further the nation's economic well-being."
"The first major event in the growth of the federal government was the ratification of the Constitution in 1789. Before that, the United States was governed under the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution is frequently praised as a document that protects the rights of individuals and limits the powers of government. But a comparison of the Constitution with the Articles reveals that just the opposite is true. Under the Constitution the federal government gained more power, was less accountable, and had greater latitude to determine its own scope of action. That is what the Constitution was intended to accomplish."
"Undoubtedly the biggest event in the growth of the federal government was the Civil War, which established its supremacy over the states. The Civil War brought much new power to the federal government, and laid the groundwork for the growth of interest groups. ... The first interest group to systematically raid the Treasury for its own benefit was the war veterans. Originally, Union veterans were entitled to pensions only if they had been injured in battle; they had up to five years to claim them. In 1870 veterans pensions totaled $286 million in 1990 dollars and should have then declined. Instead they rose to $1,548 million by 1890, because the Republicans, who dominated the White House and looked to veterans for political support, increasingly liberalized the pension laws until every Union veteran of the Civil War qualified."