How did Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism differ from Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, and how were they similar?  

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In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive party platform of New Nationalism demanded the establishment of a strong, regulatory welfare state capable of preventing corporate abuses and guaranteeing the economic and social rights of individuals, including women. The platform contained demands for an eight hour workday, a “living wage” for workers, national...

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In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive party platform of New Nationalism demanded the establishment of a strong, regulatory welfare state capable of preventing corporate abuses and guaranteeing the economic and social rights of individuals, including women. The platform contained demands for an eight hour workday, a “living wage” for workers, national labor legislation, and national healthcare. In many ways, it prefigured the later New Deal policies.

During the same election campaign season of 1912, Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom slogan rejected the Progressive party idea of big government because, according to Wilson, corporations could easily corrupt such a government instead of letting it control them. Instead, Wilson criticized concentration of economic power in the hands of large corporations and advocated policies favorable to small businesses and labor unions. Wilson opposed protectionist tariffs, which had helped to grow American industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries but were now becoming obsolete and damaging to the interests of American consumers. His first important legislative measure, the Underwood Tariff, reduced import duties. The Clayton Act of 1914 exempted unions from antitrust laws and affirmed the right of workers to strike. Like Roosevelt’s program, Wilson pro-labor policies advanced government regulation of working conditions, although they were much more cautious and limited in scope than Roosevelt’s proposals.

At the same time, by establishing the Federal Reserve System (1913) and the Federal Trade Commission (1914), Wilson’s democrats effectively abandoned the New Freedom platform’s distrust of big government and instead embraced the idea of government economic regulation that Teddy Roosevelt had espoused in his New Nationalism.

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There were similarities and differences between Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism program and Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom program. Both plans called for reforms to be made. Roosevelt proposed a series of wide-ranging reforms that included various actions to benefit workers. These reforms included ending child labor and establishing a minimum wage inclusive of women. His program also called for establishing a system similar to the eventual Social Security Act, as well as having the federal government control interstate businesses and granting women the right to vote. Woodrow Wilson’s program called for reducing protective tariffs, developing stronger anti-trust laws, and improving the national banking system. Both men wanted to take action to level the playing field, which they felt favored businesses.

Some differences between these programs included the role the federal government would play in people’s lives. Wilson felt that the people didn’t want the federal government too involved in their lives. Roosevelt’s plan called for a very active role of the federal government to help people who needed help. Roosevelt believed the government should control the actions of the monopolies. Wilson wanted to end monopolies, and he believed his reforms would accomplish this goal, while establishing competition.

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The New Freedom and the New Nationalism were both reformist and Progressive visions.  That is the main thing they have in common.  What is different about them is that Roosevelt's New Nationalism envisions a much larger and more permanent role for government in the regulation of the economy.

Both of these plans were aimed at restoring a more egalitarian America.  Both were based on the idea that large businesses and their owners had become too powerful.  Both, therefore, aimed to reduce that power.

Roosevelt's vision was of a government that would step in and regulate business so as to achieve social justice.  The government would do things like setting minimum wages and would generally oversee the workings of business to ensure that it did not harm anyone.

Wilson envisioned a much smaller role for government.  For him, the government's job was to break up the trusts and the concentration of power on Wall Street but then to get back out of regulating business.  Wilson believed that once the big firms were broken up, small firms would compete and all would be well.  At that point, the government could step back.

Both plans called for governmental efforts to increase social and economic justice, but Roosevelt's called for a much larger and more permanent role for the government.

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