The Republican Decade Essay

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Week Four: The Republican Decade Notes from: Willoughby, D. and S. (2000). The USA 1917 – 45. Heinemann; Oxford. ECONOMICS, SOCIETY, AND POLITICS BY 1917 Economics: * By 1917, the US was the world’s leading industrial nation; consumed 70% of world’s oil, leading producer of coal and steel. Also, supplied world with 30% of its wheat and 75% of corn. * Wealthy nation? Wealth unequally distributed – not all shared in the prosperity. * Workers at mercy of large business corporations. Farmers struggled to compete with larger agricultural enterprises and foreign competition. Many borrowed money from banks. Society: * Diverse, multi-cultural – a nation of immigrants. * Many arrived to poverty and exploitation. * Aggravated racial tension all over the US. Politics * Before 1913, a laissez-faire society existed: the government maintained minimal control over social and economic issues, allowing businesses to develop and expand with little restriction. This was due to the principle of individual liberty as pronounced in the US Constitution. * Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), upon election as President in 1913, introduced the New Freedom Program which allowed the government to intervene in social and economic issues. * NFP Pros: Passed laws re: working hours, low cost finance and income tax. * NFP Cons: No change to racial issues, no welfare provisions. * Many supported Wilson for his strong leadership and attempt to solve social and economic issues. * The new system was known as Progressivism: A political response to industrialisation and its social consequences which wanted to end the laissez-faire policy that allowed capitalists to expand freely. Believed there should be some control to capitalism, especially to protect the workers. AMERICA IN WWI * US had avoided aligning with any side prior to 1917; in fact, US offered
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