Posted by: Marc Gartner, Economic Officer
The office of President offers its occupant unrivalled ability to influence the policies and future of the nation. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), used his presidential authority to modernize the United States in a way that profoundly improved the commercial climate and the natural environment, which still contributes to the country today.
Theodore Roosevelt was born in 1858, and grew up in the dynamic post-Civil War period when the United States rapidly modernized through industrial prowess, commercial and retail innovation and the advent of free media competition throughout the country. He was a political dynamo and scholar at a young age: as an adult in New York, he was a published historian, the state’s youngest representative, an anti-corruption fighter, and elected governor of New York State at the age of 41 in 1899. (His distant cousin Franklin Roosevelt followed a similar path, serving as Governor of New York, then as the 32nd President of the United States from 1933-1945.)
Just two years later, in 1901, Roosevelt became the leader of the United States (he was inaugurated as vice president on March 4, and became president in September of the same year when President McKinley was assassinated). Thus, the stage was set for Roosevelt to introduce two profound and insightful changes in the country. The first was his implementation of the anti-trust (or anti-monopoly) Sherman Act. As president, Roosevelt finally used the law and took two dozen monopolies to court, contending that they were acting in highly uncompetitive ways that deeply harmed consumers. The President won many of the cases, and by breaking up the monopolies, he established a “level-playing field” in numerous industries that reduced prices, greatly increased competition, sparked business innovation, and improved the standard of living and economic freedom for the common man.
Roosevelt’s second inspired vision was to further the protection of the great beauty and nature of the United States. He established the modern National Forest Service and created 150 protected forests in the country, more than three in each state (there were 45 states at the time). He also established three national parks and over 18 national monuments. That is to say, he protected over 930,000 square kilometers of America’s most pristine and beautiful land from overuse and environmental degradation. His legacy balances the desires of natural resource-based business with the desires of nature lovers from around the country and the world by allowing sustainable logging while ensuring that forests remain healthy and replenish themselves.