Christian Reformed Tradition Regarding Big Business

In the wake of the panic of 1907 De Gereformeerde Amerikaan snapped,

How nice for Wall Street that the administration of this land, from one political party as well as the other, is so partial on its behalf. Wall Street speculates and loses millions of dollars. Should a panic then ensue, the keeper of the nation’s treasury does not hesitate to intervene. . . . This is a godless practice that must be stopped.

The notes of Henry Beet’s 1899 Fourth of July oration showed a fear of great wealth per se, not only when ill-begotten: “The Demon of Money . . . is like a gigantic Octopus, stretching forth his terrible arms over our ballot boxes and legislative halls, and crushing with them our farmers and common laborers.” But Klass Schoolland had the most penetrating insight, decrying the nation’s whole course of development under industrial capitalism. Not only did “bad” corporations make and use their money dishonestly but the normal operations of “good” corporations also had the most pernicious effects. By consolidating finance and industry, corporate leaders had gained control of the entire economy and could sacrifice the interests of laborers and small business at will. By manipulating the press, they excited the public to support the imperial adventures abroad and the further consolidation at home that were required for the attainment of their ends. Thus they infected the entire nation with their lust for wealth and empire. “Is this great, worldly development really so necessary?” asked Schooland. “We doubt it very much.” (James Bratt, Dutch Calvinism in America, 64-65)

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