What was "self-help," and why was it such a threat to the capitalist economy? How did the government respond to self-help?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Self-help was the notion that people should look to support themselves instead of relying on others.

Far from its being a threat to the capitalist system, it actually reinforced it by absolving the richest members of society, those who'd gained most from capitalism, from supporting those less fortunate than themselves...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Self-help was the notion that people should look to support themselves instead of relying on others.

Far from its being a threat to the capitalist system, it actually reinforced it by absolving the richest members of society, those who'd gained most from capitalism, from supporting those less fortunate than themselves through taxation.

Successive governments in the United States preached the virtues of self-help, seeing it as a sign of moral virtue. They believed, as did many in society, that those unable to help themselves guilty of weakness or moral failure.

In keeping with the strict adherence to the philosophy of self-help, governments used the concept as a convenient rationale for not intervening in the economy or providing support to those Americans in desperate need of financial assistance.

Governments were concerned that not only would such assistance render people incapable of looking after themselves, but it would require the imposition of taxes and regulations almost guaranteed to damage the workings of the capitalist economy.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on