The Only Trouble with Capitalism Is Capitalists. They’re Too Damned Greedy

Herbert Hoover? Mark Sullivan Jr.? Harold G. Moulton? Apocryphal?

money07Dear Quote Investigator: U.S. President Herbert Hoover perceived the dangers of stock market speculation in the late 1920s and tried unsuccessfully to convince the Governor of New York to introduce regulations. After the Wall Street Crash in October 1929 he supposedly reacted bitterly:

The only trouble with capitalism is capitalists; they’re too damn greedy.

Is this an accurate quotation?

Quote Investigator: The evidence for this quotation comes from the oral testimony given in 1968 by Mark Sullivan Jr. whose father and Herbert Hoover were close friends. The transcript is preserved at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. The Sullivan and Hoover family members went fishing together and dined with one another often. The son was born in May 1911; hence, he was 18 at the time of the Stock Market Crash. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Incidentally, that reminds me of a remark I can remember Mr. Hoover making. This was when he was President and I’m quite sure it was after the Depression had started. I can remember him saying, under some circumstances somewhere: “You know, the only trouble with capitalism is capitalists; they’re too damned greedy,” Of course, that was part of the trouble in the late 20s. If the big corporations, instead of raking in all the profits, had lowered the prices of their products, I suspect we’d have come through with a less severe depression.

The timeframe indicated was between 1929 and 1933. Hoover may have made the comment to Mark Sullivan Sr., and it was heard by his son.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. Oral History Interview with Mr. Mark Sullivan Jr. conducted by Raymond Henle on November 30, 1968 at Herbert Hoover Oral History Program Offices in Washington, D.C. (Accessed via scans from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa; thanks to archivist Matthew Schaefer)