What impact did muckrakers have on industrialists in the American economy?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the Muckrakers' largest impact was the basic idea of uncovering the "muck" that was such a large part of American economic growth.  The Muckrakers operated as one of the first examples of the "fourth branch" of government as the media.  They were able to force public outrage and a sense of accountability out of those in the position of economic and industrial power.  Sinclair's work in The Jungle brought to light how unsafe and unsanitary practices in the desire to consolidate and make more money was causing public health issues.  His work in Oil! helped to bring to light the collusion that was going on between government and industry.  Ida Tarbell discussed how trusts were ruining competition in the industry and causing more hardship to the consumer. Jacob Riis' work examined the emergence of the underclass in America, prompting significant social reflection as to the costs of excessive industrialization.  In this light, the Muckrakers were able to stem the tide of economic proliferation at all costs. The Muckrakers were able to arouse public outrage and demand that industrialists be held responsible in ensuring that the general welfare of the people were upheld.  This translated in some industrialists having to curtail profits for ensuring public safety, workers' rights, and providing a level playing field for all participants in the capitalist economy.  In the end, this ended up impacting the industrialists in a manner whereby the need to make a profit at all costs was held under scrutiny by the Muckrakers.

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