Russia apart, no modern state has undertaken an experiment which even approaches in magnitude or significance the adventure upon which President Roosevelt has embarked. There have been attempts to regulate the hours and wages of particular persons in particular industries. There have been important schemes of social legislation, like the British system of unemployment insurance. War-time necessity has induced the limitation of profit for a special period, and certain vital industries have sometimes, either permanently or for a period, come under the direct ownership and control of a public authority. There has even, as in the Germany of the post-war epoch, been a partnership, though indirect, between industry and the state.
But President Roosevelt is the first statesman in a great capitalist society who has sought deliberately and systematically to use the power of the state to subordinate the primary assumptions of that society to certain vital social purposes. He is the first statesman deliberately to experiment on a wholesale scale with the limitation of the profit-making motive. He is the first statesman, again in a wholesale way, to attack not the secondary but the primary manifestations of the doctrine of laissez faire. He is the first statesman who, of his own volition, and without coercion, either direct or indirect, has placed in the hands of organized labor a weapon which, if it be used successfully, is bound to result in a vital readjustment of the relative bargaining power of Capital and Labor. He is also the first statesman who, the taxing power apart, has sought to use the political authority of the state to compel, over the whole area of economic effort, a significant readjustment of the national income.