The role of the national or federal Government in economic and social issues would dominate the political discourse during the 20th and 21st centuries.  Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive agenda,...

The role of the national or federal Government in economic and social issues would dominate the political discourse during the 20th and 21st centuries.  Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive agenda, Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom, and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal led the US from a laissez faire role to an interventionist role for government.  

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Social Security dramatically changed the mission of government in people's lives.  Some critics say it has made people too dependent on government.  Defenders say it ultimately led to the creation of a confident middle class that significantly reduced poverty.  What is your position?  Explain.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In essence, this is a political question.  It asks whether you believe in the conservative idea that the government is excessively involved in our lives today or the liberal idea that governmental intervention into the economy has improved our society.  In this answer, I will not take a position.  Instead, I will outline the arguments for each side and leave you to make the decision as to which position you find more compelling.

Liberals in the United States argue that the increased role of the federal government has improved our country.  They say that America in the time of laissez-faire was a country in which it was harder for people to get ahead.  In their minds, big business dominated the American economy in the time before the Progressive Era.  These big businesses did not have to pay any attention to the needs of their workers.  This made it possible for them to impose poor working conditions and low wages on their employees.  These employees and their children were therefore unable to rise into the middle class.  In this view, America was a place in which there was a great deal of inequality and very little social mobility.

By contrast, conservatives believe that America’s economy and society have been badly damaged by the increase in federal involvement in our lives.  In this view, Americans in the past became prosperous because they had to rely on their own abilities and their own willingness to work hard.  Conservatives argue that the government today makes it too easy for people to live a comfortable life even if they do not work hard.  They argue that we tend to rely on the government to bail us out if we have problems or if we are simply unwilling to work hard. 

Both sides can put forward evidence to back their claims.  America clearly has a larger middle class today than it did in the past.  Many more Americans can enjoy a very good quality of life even if inequality of wealth is as bad today (by some measures) as it was in the Progressive Era.  On the other hand, there is less social mobility (defined as the ability of a person to move from one class to another in their lifetime) in the United States today than there was in times past.  We also have a government that spends much more money on various programs that are meant to help us than it can collect in taxes. 

The evidence for these two positions is ambiguous.  The arguments of each side make sense to some degree.  Which seems more logical to you?

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