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Although Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were both progressives, there was a difference in their political visions. Wilson was much less interested in government intervention in the economy than Roosevelt was.
Roosevelt ran in 1912 on the platform of “New Nationalism.” He wanted to created strong regulatory agencies that would oversee business. He wanted things like a minimum wage that would use government power to help the people. By contrast, Wilson favored a “New Freedom” in which the government would lay a foundation for competition between small businessmen. Wilson wanted to break up the trusts but then get government out of the way so that fair competition could occur, leading to better outcomes without government intervention.
Despite their similar progressivism backgrounds, Wilson Woodrow and Theodore Roosevelt differed considerably in the means they thought the progressivism agenda would be achieved. Roosevelt, through his New Nationalism plan, advocated for greater involvement by the federal government in all matters social and economic. As such, he proposed reforms geared towards greater social justice such as women suffrage. In terms of big business, New Nationalism proposed government regulation in order to protect the general public from any adverse impacts that could arise from monopolistic establishments.
On the other hand, Wilson opposed the idea of social welfare as proposed by Roosevelt’s New Nationalism. In his plan, the New Freedom, Wilson supported free enterprise characterized by competition as this would enable citizens to thrive economically. Instead of government regulation, he proposed the use of antitrust policy to control unfair business practices. The New Freedom plan was therefore free of social justice reforms and alternatively focused on tariff reform, business reform and banking reform.
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