Date: 4/17/2012 To: Victor From: Subject: Voter Victor In the early years of American history, most political leaders were reluctant to involve the federal government too heavily in the private sector, except in the area of transportation. In general, they accepted the concept of laissez-faire, a doctrine opposing government interference in the economy except to maintain law and order. This attitude started to change during the latter part of the 19th century, when small business, farm, and labor movements began asking the government to intercede on their behalf.
Congress enacted a law regulating railroads in 1887 (the Interstate Commerce Act), and one preventing large firms from controlling a single industry in 1890 (the Sherman Antitrust Act). These laws were not rigorously enforced, however, until the years between 1900 and 1920, when Republican President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), Democratic President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), and others sympathetic to the views of the Progressives came to power. Many of today’s U. S. regulatory agencies were created during these years, including the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission.
Government involvement in the economy increased most significantly during the New Deal of the 1930s. The 1929 stock market crash had initiated the most serious economic dislocation in the nation’s history, the Great Depression (1929-1940). President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) launched the New Deal to alleviate the emergency. New Deal leaders flirted with the idea of building closer ties between business and government, but some of these efforts did not survive past World War II.
The National Industrial Recovery Act, a short-lived New Deal program, sought to encourage business leaders and workers, with government supervision, to resolve conflicts and thereby increase productivity and efficiency. While America never took the turn to fascism that similar business-labor-government arrangements did in Germany and Italy, the New Deal initiatives did point to a new sharing of power among these three key economic players. This confluence of power grew even more during the war, as the U. S. government intervened extensively in the economy.
The War Production Board coordinated the nation’s productive capabilities so that military priorities would be met. Converted consumer-products plants filled many military orders. Automakers built tanks and aircraft, for example, making the United States the “arsenal of democracy. ” In an effort to prevent rising national income and scarce consumer products to cause inflation, the newly created Office of Price Administration controlled rents on some dwellings, rationed consumer items ranging from sugar to gasoline, and otherwise tried to restrain price increases.
WORK CITED: U. S. Department of State This article is adapted from the book “Outline of the U. S. Economy” by Conte and Carr and has been adapted with permission from the U. S. Department of State. Communications Workers of A. Experts on the U. S. Economy To Outline National Agenda. Business Wire (English) [serial online]. July 0010:Available from: Regional Business News, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 17, 2012.