Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were both presidents during the Progressive Era, and in the election of 1912 they competed for the presidency. Both men saw the problems caused by industrialization and Big Business, but disagreed on the nature of these problems and the correct method of solving them. Roosevelt saw the benefit of increased efficiency brought on by Big Business but stressed the need to legislate against its abuse of power while Wilson saw all monopoly as inherently unproductive and stressed its abolishment.

Roosevelt, in his “New Nationalism”, emphasized the need for enhanced regulation and legislation to combat the evils of Big Business, while maintaining a cooperative tone. In his “Square Deal”, he outlined a plan for enforcing equality for all members of society, including both the small-time laborer and the big-time business executive. He pointed out, though, that special interests were using their power to manipulate politics into misrepresenting the common will. He stressed the importance of ridding politics of this manipulation through measures such as prohibiting political contributions from corporations and implementation of the Australian ballot. Roosevelt also pointed out that the power of Big Business could be and was being misused to exploit the Little Man and stifle his advancement through society. He suggested that corporations and the people who run them be responsible for maintaining fully legal behavior and disclosing economic status to the public in order to prevent corruption. He also stressed that government should maintain complete control over industry vital to the welfare of the nation.

Wilson, in his “New Freedom”, stressed that monopolistic Big Business disrupted the economy and subjected the majority of the nation, and must therefore be abolished. He emphasized that large, faceless corporations have taken over the small, competitive companies of the early days of capitalism and in the process have led to stagnation and inefficiency, have subjected the Little Man and stolen his individuality and sense of being and worth, and corrupted the ideal of democracy and equality for which this nation was created. By removing the large impediment of monopolistic Big Business clogging the arteries of economic progress, the way for industrious entrepreneurs would be opened up and the youthful spirit of America would be revived.

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