How exactly did the New Deal change the American government?


Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The effects of the New Deal are still contested--many conservatives in particular view its effects as disastrous--but it is beyond dispute that it changed the size and scope of the federal government. The New Deal was an institutional response to the problems of the Great Depression. Under FDR's leadership, Congress passed dozens of laws establishing programs aimed at relief, recovery and reform. Many of these programs, like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) involved direct government action to create work for Americans who had lost their jobs amid the economic collapse of the early 1930s. Others, like the Social Security Administration, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) were intended to provide structural reform to avoid or at least manage the American economy in such a way as to avoid future economic collapses. As historian David Kennedy has written in his book Freedom From Fear, the New Deal did not really redistribute income or establish anything like state socialism in the United States. But it did "mend the evils of the Depression by reasoned experiment within the existing social system" and promote reforms that are with us today (380). This process involved an enormous expansion of the federal government that exists today.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How did the New Deal change the U.S. government's role in America?

The New Deal changed many things in our country. One of them was what people believed the role of our government should be during different periods of time. Prior to the Great Depression, many people believed the government should follow a laissez-faire philosophy. This meant the government should stay out of the economy and out of our lives as much as possible. The Great Depression changed this way of thinking.

As a result of the Great Depression, people began to expect the government to get involved when difficult times occurred. During the Great Depression, people looked to government for help. They expected the government to provide relief and recovery programs. The government created many job programs during the New Deal. Because of the Great Depression, people now believe the government should act as a safety net when times get really difficult.

We see this way of thinking today. When a natural disaster strikes, people look to the government for assistance. When people are suffering, they expect the government to help them. When the economy drops significantly, people want the government to take action to deal with effects of the declining economy.

The Great Depression altered the way many Americans feel about the role government should play when difficult times occur in our economy or in our lives.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on