How did the New Deal differ from the pre-WWI progressive era?
The New Deal was different from the pre-war Progressive Era. The Progressive Era came about because many people were concerned about abuses that they believed existed in society. The Progressives were concerned about the use of child labor, the uneven playing field between employer and employee, the deceptive methods used by businesses, and the unsanitary conditions in some industries, especially the meat industry. The Progressives also wanted to get more people involved in the political process.
New ideas such as the referendum, initiative, and recall were developed. Citizens were able to directly elect their United States Senators as a result of the Seventeenth Amendment. Laws were passed to control child labor and to provide compensation to help those workers who were injured on the job. Health and safety regulations were passed to improve conditions in the workplace. The Meat Inspection Act provided for the inspection of meat by the federal government. The Pure Food and Drug Act made it illegal to falsely label food and medicine.
These changes were made to correct abuses that the Progressives believed existed in the United States. There also were new government agencies to monitor the actions of businesses. The Children’s Bureau monitored child labor practices. The Bureau of Mines monitored activities in the mining industry.
The New Deal was created to help people who were hurt by the severe economic decline. Various laws were passed to get people back to work. These laws included the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Other actions were taken to help people keep their homes and their farms. The Home Owners Loan Corporation and the Farm Credit Administration worked to help people refinance their mortgages to keep their homes and their farms. These laws and programs were designed to bring relief and recovery to the American people and to the economy. Some laws were passed to control the actions of bankers and investors. The Glass-Steagall Act created insurance for savings accounts and prevented commercial banks from investing money in the stock market that had been deposited in the banks. The Securities Act regulated the stock market and tried to prevent fraud.
While the Progressive Era was focused mainly on reform, the New Deal was focused on relief, recovery, and reform.
The New Deal differed from the Progressive era because the New Deal involved a much greater investment of the federal government in providing direct help to people and involved the development of a more intricate government bureaucracy. During the Progressive era, the government passed legislation, such as the Pure Food and Drug Act under Teddy Roosevelt, which protected consumers from quack medicines and tainted food, or the Clayton Anti-trust Act under Wilson, which added teeth to existing anti-trust legislation. However, under the Progressives, the government was not involved in creating jobs or giving direct handouts to people on relief.
During the Great Depression, however, the federal government provided employment directly to people through agencies such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Public Works Administration. The government also provided relief money to people through agencies such as the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
The goals of the New Deal were relief (meaning helping people in need), recovery (getting the economy moving again), and reform (changing the government's management of the economy through acts such as the 1933 Banking Act that established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or FDIC). However, the Progressive era legislation mainly focused on reform, not on relief or recovery. The government was more directly involved in the lives of Americans during the New Deal than during the Progressive era, and during the New Deal, the role and size of the federal government grew.
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.