How did the Industrial Revolution change how people viewed the responsibilities of government and liberty?

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The abuses of the Industrial Revolution led to drastic changes in governance. At first, the public and private sectors were considered different and it was thought that they should never intersect. However, as businesses grew, their profits and control over the nation's natural resources made them, in some respects, stronger...

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The abuses of the Industrial Revolution led to drastic changes in governance. At first, the public and private sectors were considered different and it was thought that they should never intersect. However, as businesses grew, their profits and control over the nation's natural resources made them, in some respects, stronger than the national government. Reformers looked at the poor condition of workers and the concept that they were disposable in the eyes of their employers. This legislation placed limits on business. In the United States, businesses were curtailed from trying to form monopolies through the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Businesses were also called upon to provide safe working conditions, especially after the horrible Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911. Government also stepped in to protect consumers as well by regulating food and medicine. During the New Deal, businesses were banned from employing children. Businesses also had to pay a minimum wage. Later decades led to government regulating businesses even further through more creative taxation measures and insistence on environmental protections.

People now expect government to protect both workers and consumers from business. While government can be inept, business is often seen as morally corrupt in the eyes of many. For good or ill, many people consider government regulation of business as one way that the United States maintains basic freedoms for all its citizens.

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To a large extent, people increasingly came to view the role of government during the Industrial Revolution as fulfilling the role previously assigned to rural landowners. In traditional rural society, the lord of the manor was expected to provide some measure of care for those who worked on his land. Though the seriousness with which landowners took their social responsibilities inevitably differed widely, there was a general consensus among the rural elite that the ownership of land entailed certain obligations to the poor.

During the Industrial Revolution, however, all that changed. As countless rural-dwellers made their way to the burgeoning towns and cities looking for work, they became separated from the intricate network of ties and obligations in which their whole identities had previously been bound up. Whereas if someone working the land may have received help from the lord of the manor if they became sick, no such assistance was available in the industrial towns and cities.

Increasingly vulnerable to work-related accidents, deaths, and industrial diseases, workers gradually began to look towards government to protect them from exploitation, to fill the gap in social provision left when they moved to the city. Unfortunately for them, the prevailing economic philosophy held that government should involve itself in regulating business as little as possible, and that working conditions and wages were purely a private contractual matter between employers and their workers.

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A big part of the social changes during the Industrial Revolution was the burgeoning idea of worker's rights. This was because during this time, the way people worked changed drastically. Throughout most of history, lower class people either worked a trade or were part of the property of a landowner (I'm talking mostly about serfdom here). With the advent of factories, low- skilled workers were largely taken advantage of in the new market. Children were especially vulnerable; although it was common for American children to work on family farms, the unregulated and dangerous conditions in factories raised the stakes considerably. So 19th century reformers tried to change people's opinions about how governments needed to regulate work conditions. These reformers believed in a right to education for children, and worked to urge local and federal governments to impose restrictions on employers in the aim of protecting the young factory workers. But it was not an easy fight, child laborers were cheap, convenient, and plentiful. They brought income for the family and the factory owner, so much progress in the legislature depended on the political and economic climate, rather than ideas of liberty in childhood. Eventually, they were able to convince "many among the native-born population that primary school education was a necessity for both personal fulfillment and the advancement of the nation". Generally, the change in how money was made during the Industrial Revolution, if not immediately, brought about a change in public opinion that the government should protect the worker, and that the freedoms of American citizenship should not be impeded on by the employer.

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