A Conspiracy of Optimism: Management of the National Forests since World War Two

By Paul W. Hirt | Go to book overview

5
Transition to the "Businessman's Administration," 1953

In January 1953 the first Republican administration in twenty years took the reins of government. Both houses of Congress went Republican in the 1952 elections too, giving the party an obvious even if narrow mandate.1 America had happily, overwhelmingly elected a war hero, and the Republican party, rebounding from near death in the 1930s, believed that its day had again arrived. Rebelling against the trend toward a powerful, interventionist federal government, the Republican party promised voters it would get government off the back of private enterprise, eliminate the frightful federal debt, and propel America into a new era of prosperity. The federal government would be a "partner," rather than an Orwellian Big Brother, encouraging individual initiative and greater local and state control over economic life. Gone were the days of creeping socialism, nationalized industries, strangling federal regulations, and free-loading social welfare programs. Or so many businessmen and Republican party leaders hoped.

While campaigning, Eisenhower stated that he did not want "federal domination of the people through federal domination of their natural resources."2 After his election, he loaded his administration with business leaders who opposed federal controls but nevertheless favored federal support for economic development. When they preached "partnership," they meant a form of government-business cooperation in which the government facilitated economic development but did not direct the flow of benefits, constrain the accumulation of wealth, or demand specific social or environmental outcomes. This ideology dovetailed nicely with the objectives of the timber, grazing, mining, and other extractive industries.

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