Student Question

What role did Roosevelt believe the government should play for its citizens?

Expert Answers

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If the question is focusing on President Franklin Roosevelt, I think that part of the answer is going to rely on helping individuals helping themselves.  Certainly, President Roosevelt saw the need for government action in the wake of the financial crisis in the 1930s.  The idea of providing relief, helping financial institutions to recover, and regulating market and economic practices to ensure such absues do not hurt the system in such a massive way again were all elements that drove Roosevelt's belief of what government should do for its citizens.  Yet, within this, Roosevelt also believed that individuals need to take these elements in order to help themselves.  Roosevelt's demands for individuals to get back to work and to drive the economy through their own efforts and their own contributions could not be denied.  In his Fireside Chats, Roosevelt frequently made mention of the undeniable spirit of character within individuals that would compel them to help themselves.  Providing work opportunities for individuals became vitally important for Roosevelt.  He understood that being able to help individuals help themselves would be the only way that the economic and social crisis of the time period would be avoided.  At the same time, I think that this brings out a very strong tenet of Conservativism, something that is not always associated with Roosevelt.  The idea of being able to enable individuals to improve their own lot through employment opportunities and work is something that Conservatives will seize upon later on in the century.  Roosevelt never designed the modern idea of welfare, instead opting for individuals to take advantage of the opportunities that could be given to them and making these work for their own predicaments.  In this, Roosevelt saw that government's primary responsibility was to help individuals help themselves.

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