How did the New Deal differ from the pre-WWI progressive era?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In some ways, the New Deal and the Progressive Era were similar.  The Progressive Era saw the beginning of government involvement in the economy and the New Deal took that to new heights.  The New Deal really cemented the idea (which had started in the Progressive Era) that the government was responsible for making the economy run well and fairly.

However, the New Deal was (when compared to the Progressive Era) much more about economic stability and much less about economic justice.  The most important changes in the Progressive Era involved things, like trustbusting, that were meant to reduce the power of big businesses and to prevent them from abusing the people.

The New Deal was not like that.  The New Deal did not try to punish businesses or to stop them from hurting people.  Instead, the New Deal was meant to create economic stability.  The New Deal featured projects like the TVA which were meant to promote growth and stability.  It featured new programs like Social Security and the FDIC which were also meant to protect people against economic pain, but not really meant to protect them from the actions of big business.

All in all, then, the Progressive Era was more about reining in businesses and preventing them from abusing people whereas the New Deal was more about helping to keep the economy stable, which would help both individuals and businesses.

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