How did the New Deal fundamentally reshape the relationship between the federal government and its citizens?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before the New Deal, the federal government primarily saw its role as defending the nation militarily and left other financial issues in the hands of state and local governments, the private sector, and private, often religious, charities. However, the magnitude of the economic collapse brought on by the Depression overwhelmed local and private institutions. More and more people began to look to communism and other radical solutions to alleviate the widespread economic distress. More troublingly, people began to feel that the capitalist system was the wrong way to organize society, as it had so obviously failed to bring prosperity. President Roosevelt's New Deal has been credited with saving the capitalist system in the US by both regulating it more strictly and providing a social safety net that allowed it to function without destroying itself.

For the first time, the federal government began safeguarding the economic wellbeing of the average citizen through federal programs that covered the whole country. These included Social Security and the beginnings of the welfare state. For the first time, as well, legislation set a nationwide minimum wage, abolished child labor, and more fully protected worker's rights, including the right to unionize. Federal programs provided infusions of cash to local governments and administered programs more efficiently than local initiatives. Since the advent of the New Deal, the majority of the public has accepted the role of the federal government in ensuring a minimum standard of economic safety and wellbeing for the average citizen. 


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The New Deal fundamentally changed the relationship between the federal government and its citizens by creating a relationship in which the people came to depend more on the government than they had in the past.

Before the New Deal, the federal government was relatively detached from the lives of average members of the public.  Most importantly, the federal government took little or no responsibility for the people’s prosperity or financial security.  There was much more of a sense that people should take care of themselves.  In the event that people could not do so, families and things like private charities should step in.

With the New Deal, all of this changed.  All of a sudden, the government was taking a major role in ensuring that people would be at least somewhat secure.  It created programs like Social Security and the FDIC to do this.  The New Deal also created the expectation that, when things go really badly, the federal government will help people.  This is what the government was doing through programs such as the WPA and the CCC.

The major change, then, is that the people came to expect that the federal government would help to ensure their prosperity and economic security.   

rachellopez | Student

After the New Deal was created by Franklin D. Roosevelt, people looked to the government more for financial aid. The New Deal was created to rebuild the economy after the Great Depression which meant helping people get jobs, housing, money, and confidence in their country. The New Deal Programs provided aid such as Social Security and Federal Housing Programs which was more than the government had ever offered before. People started to rely on the government to help them if they had trouble.

I believe even today this is true. Today we have so much assistance from the government in finding jobs and getting money that we might not be able to survive without it. The New Deal has made a lasting impact on how we interact with our government.