The New Deal | Pepperdine University | School of Public Policy

The New Deal

Franklin D. Roosevelt Speeches


Address on the Survival of Private Enterprise

Franklin D. Roosevelt

When these dinners of businessmen throughout the country were first organized, I was asked to talk specifically for the businessmen of the nation.  But I said that it was impossible to make a speech for businessmen as members of a separate and distinct occupation from the rest of the people in America.  There cannot be one type of speech for businessmen and another type of speech for industrial workers and for farmers.

We have no separate interests in America.  There is nothing to say to one group that ought not to be said to all groups.  What is good for one ought to be good for all.  We can make our machinery of private enterprise work only so long as it does not benefit one group at the expense of another.

No one in the United States believes more firmly than I in the system of private business, private property and private profit.  No administration in the history of our country has done more for it.  It was this administration which dragged it back out of the pit into which it had fallen in 1933.

If the administration had had the slightest inclination to change that system, all that it would have had to do was to fold its hands and wait -- let the system continue to default to itself and to the public.

Instead we did what the previous administration had declined to do through all the years of the depression -- we acted quickly and drastically to save it.  It was because of our belief in private enterprise that we acted, because of our faith in the essential and fundamental virtue of democracy and our conviction that individual initiative and private profit served it best.

You who read the business sections of the newspapers, the financial and commercial reports, know what we did and what its results have been.

But as your profits return and the values of your securities and investments come back, do not forget the lessons of the past.  We must hold constantly to the resolve never again to become committed to the philosophy of the boom era, to individualism run wild, to the false promise that American business was great because it had built up financial control of industrial production and distribution in the hands of a few individuals and corporations by the use of other people's money; that government should be ever ready to purr against the legs of high finance; that the benefits of the free competitive system should trickle down by gravity from the top to the bottom; and above all, that government had no right, in any way, to interfere with those who were using the system of private profit to the damage of the rest of the American citizens.

Collapse of business was the price we paid for not facing intelligently the problems of private enterprise in a modern world.

There were those who advised extreme courses in the days of the crisis in 1933.  Many said that deflation should take it course, wiping out in bankruptcy all but a handful of the strongest.

Some, including many businessmen, urged that the only solution was for government to take everything over and run things itself.

We took the middle road.  We used the facilities and resources available only to government, to permit individual enterprise to resume its normal functions in a socially sound competitive order.  We provided credit at one end of the business mechanism and purchasing power at the other.  The broken pipes of the circulatory system of business have been welded together again.

An overwhelming majority of independent individual businessmen approve in their hearts what we did to save American business.  I am equally sure that a handful of monopolistic businessmen hate what we did for American business.  Business had become regimented.  Free enterprise was being gobbled up piece by piece.  Economic control of business in these few persons had developed into political control of government itself.  They did not want us to take American business out of their grip.

But we not only have freed government from their domination; we are now freeing business also from their domination.

We have loosened the grip of monopoly by taking from monopolists their chief tools -- the devices of high finance.

We are resolved to keep politics out of business.  But at the same time we ask that business refrain from coercion in politics.  Not only wage earners but nearly all businessmen resent the present attempts by a few employers to frighten their employees by misrepresentation.  For example, a few employers are spreading half-truths about the Social Security Law, half-truths that tell the workers only of the workers' contribution, and fail to mention the employers' contribution.  They conceal from the workers the fact that for every dollar which the employee contributes, the employer also contributes a dollar, and that both dollars are held in a government trust fund solely for the social security of the workers.

Things like this bring certain types of employers into disrepute with other employers and with the great mass of our citizens.  The real objective of this minority is the repeal of any form of social security to which they themselves have to contribute.  For many years the record shows that this minority has been willing to take only a plan of unemployment insurance and old-age pensions to which the workers would be the sole contributors and which would cost the employers nothing at all.

All we ask of business and for business is the greater good of the greater number -- fair treatment by it and fair treatment for it.  We are reaching for the security which comes from an intelligent and honorable system of interdependent economics which every businessman as well as everyone else can trust and into which he can venture with confidence. 

We seek to guarantee the survival of private enterprise by guaranteeing conditions under which it can work.

We seek to insure the material well being of America, and to make more firm the real foundations of a lasting democracy.