The Progressives’ philosophy was that the government should become more involved in the lives of Americans. It should do so in order to restrain the rich and improve the poor.
The progressive movement was a middle class movement. The middle class felt that the rich and the poor were taking excessive control over the country. The rich were using their power to abuse the workers and the public. They were using their wealth to corrupt the government. The poor, it was felt, were exercising too much control over city governments through political “machines.” The poor were also living in ways (the progressives felt) that harmed American society.
Therefore, the Progressives wanted the government to get more involved. They wanted the government to break up the big monopolies. They wanted it to do more to protect workers from harsh working conditions. They wanted it to prevent the companies from selling impure foods and drugs. The Progressives also wanted the government to reform the lower classes. In particular, they wanted to implement the prohibition of alcohol which, they felt, was ruining the lower classes.
In these ways the Progressives believed that the government should be more involved in American life so as to enforce middle class values on the rich and the poor.