Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men's views confided to
me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field
of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of
something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so
subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that
they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in
condemnation of it.
They know that America is not a place of which it can be said, as it
used to be, that a man may choose his own calling and pursue it just as
far as his abilities enable him to pursue it; because to-day, if he
enters certain fields, there are organizations which will use means
against him that will prevent his building up a business which they do
not want to have built up; organizations that will see to it that the
ground is cut from under him and the markets shut against him. For if he
begins to sell to certain retail dealers, to any retail dealers, the
monopoly will refuse to sell to those dealers, and those dealers,
afraid, will not buy the new man's wares.
And this is the country which has lifted to the admiration of the world
its ideals of absolutely free opportunity, where no man is supposed to be
under any limitation except the limitations of his character and of his
mind; where there is supposed to be no distinction of class, no
distinction of blood, no distinction of social status, but where men win
or lose on their merits.
I lay it very close to my own conscience as a public man whether we can
any longer stand at our doors and welcome all newcomers upon those terms.
American industry is not free, as once it was free; American enterprise is
not free; the man with only a little capital is finding it harder to get
into the field, more and more impossible to compete with the big fellow.
Why? Because the laws of this country do not prevent the strong from
crushing the weak. That is the reason, and because the strong have crushed
the weak the strong dominate the industry and the economic life of this
country. No man can deny that the lines of endeavor have more and more
narrowed and stiffened; no man who knows anything about the development of
industry in this country can have failed to observe that the larger kinds
of credit are more and more difficult to obtain, unless you obtain them
upon the terms of uniting your efforts with those who already control the
industries of the country; and nobody can fail to observe that any man
who tries to set himself up in competition with any process of manufacture
which has been taken under the control of large combinations of capital
will presently find himself either squeezed out or obliged to sell and
allow himself to be absorbed.
~ Woodrow Wilson
The New Freedom (1913)