"Let every generation look out for itself"

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applewuud's picture

It is often said by conservatives or libertarians that people need to look out for themselves, that government should not grease the wheels in any way, whether for business or for people.  I came across a statement that's a good counter to their position:

The great government we loved has too often been made use of for private and selfish purposes, and those who used it had forgotten the people.  There has been something crude and heartless and unfeeling in our haste to succeed and be great.  Our thought has been, "let every man look out for himself; let every generation look out for itself," while we reared giant machinery which made it impossible that any but those who stood at the levers of control should have a chance to look out for themselves.

Who do you think said this, and when did they say it?  I'd be interested in hearing your ideas without Googling it to find the answer.  I'll give the answer tomorrow.


applewuud's picture
What, no takers?   This quote

What, no takers?  

This quote is from Woodrow Wilson's inaugural speech in 1912.  Wilson was a progressive Democrat who won the presidency after decades of Republican machine rule and the excesses of the "Gilded Age".  Teddy Roosevelt, who had split from the Republicans and was running as a Progressive party (Bull Moose) candidate, came in second with 27% of the vote.  Wilson's policy viewpoints were largely similar to Roosevelt's, which means that more than 69% of the electorate in 1912 voted for progressives.  (Taft, the Republican candidate, had 23% of the popular vote; Eugene Debs, the Socialist, got 6%.)  

As George Lakoff pointed out in his book Moral Politics, conservative morality is based around self-discipline.  That's a good thing, in my opinion; but their blind spot is not seeing the "giant machinery" Wilson refers to that makes it an unfair playing field.