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I would argue that the most important and impactful area of Wilson’s “New Freedom” reforms was the area of banking reform, and most specifically the creation of the Federal Reserve System.
It is possible to argue that regulation of business was much more important, particularly in the short run. During Wilson’s administration, there were a number of important regulations placed on business. For example, there was the imposition of the 8-hour day for some workers. There was the creation of workers’ compensation. There was the passage of the Clayton Act which gave labor unions exemptions from antitrust laws even as it strengthened those laws against businesses. This gave more power to unions. All of these were important in helping workers.
In the long run, however, the creation of the Federal Reserve has been much more important than those changes were. Unions today are much weaker than they once were. There is much less need for regulation of workplaces because a lower proportion of Americans work in dangerous jobs. But the Federal Reserve is a backbone of our economy. As our central bank, it helps to keep our entire economy running. This makes it the most important aspect of Wilson’s reforms.
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