The “progressive era” is a very important period in American history, roughly including the period from the 1890s to the 1920s.Since the mid-19th century, the United States has experienced tremendous economic and social changes and has rapidly transformed from a rural society to an urban society.At the same time, with the concentration of social wealth, the disparity between the rich and the poor has become larger and larger, and the society has begun to have class differentiation, and the issue of social equity has emerged. However, from the federal to the local, the US national governance structure is still basically a limited government formed in the first half of the 19th century. It not only fails to solve the new problems brought from economic and social changes, but also seems to be increasingly becoming a part of the problem.
Faced with the challenges of these issues, in the era of progress, most Americans began to change their traditional beliefs about a beautiful society and government. Since the 1890s, a political reform and political movement has been launched with the urban middle class as the core.In the second half of the 19th century, almost all industrial sectors were highly centralized, and a few large companies controlled the entire economy of the United States. Wall Street concentrated most of the capital of the United States, they manipulated the country’s finances, and then controlled the country. With the huge wealth of their control, these large enterprises and big businesses have strongly influenced the activities of major political parties in politics, making these parties a spokesperson for their interests. The high concentration of wealth has greatly degraded democracy, making individual freedom become A false thing, the state’s ability has become extremely fragile. In 1893, US President Cleveland even had to ask the Morgan Group to help maintain the country’s gold reserves. In the fifteen years of the 19th and 20th centuries, in the face of the economic crisis, the US president has resorted to the Morgan Group three times to save the country.
During this period, not only large enterprises can do whatever they want, but also various SMEs are not bound. Enterprises have caused serious environmental pollution when making production decisions. There is no regulation of the production and sale of food and medicine, and food and drug safety constitute a major social problem. Among them, food safety is a particular problem. Milk is a very typical example. At that time, American women also began to enter the job market, and the demand for bottled milk in American households was growing, especially for infants. In this case, providing milk to urban families becomes a very profitable business. In the absence of supervision, insatiable producers and distributors often sell milk produced by tuberculous cows, low-quality milk, water, salt, soda in milk, etc., for urban women, these unclean milk It was a major cause of high infant mortality rates in the United States at the time.
Workers become wage slaves, working conditions are very harsh, and there is a lack of labor security and other security measures. In 1888, the “Chicago Times” once titled “Urban Female Slave”, a series of reports on the extremely harsh working environment of Chicago’s “sweatshop”.Not only workers, but in front of those big capitals, farmers are also weak and weak. Farmers find themselves increasingly attached to railway companies and are exploited by their monopoly transportation prices. Large but invisible financial capital enterprises also constitute another level of exploitation of farmers. For example, the credit cost determined by financial enterprises often causes farmers to fall into bankruptcy. Some farmers gradually lose their land, and farmers are in the agricultural population. The proportion in China rose from 26% in 1880 to 37% in 1910.Urbanization and immigration have also created enormous demand and pressure on urban infrastructure and public services. Industrialization has caused enormous urban pollution and has also increased the cost of urban public services. The city government at the time did not effectively solve these problems.
Since the mid-19th century, the problem of corruption in the United States has also been extremely serious, and it has mainly been “commercial corruption politics.” “Corruption trading” was the mode of operation of all levels of government at that time. The political corruption in the United States is actually due to the separatist system of political parties that has been practiced since the bourgeois revolution. Under the system of party separatism, the government has actually become the “object of the party” of the political party, and it cannot be the government of the people. Once a political party comes to power, the government’s various official positions become the party’s trophy. The party leaders distribute among the party’s cronies. At the same time, if the political parties step down, these cronies will also follow the steps, so any official will seize the opportunity during his tenure. “Catch a handful”, so it is difficult for government officials to form long-term expectations, and there is no incentive to responsibly formulate policies and manage them.
This kind of party separatist government is increasingly becoming a part of the problem. The worse the government, the less the people dare to hand over power to the government. Until the turn of the 20th century, most American cities could not raise other fiscal revenues except for property taxes. In this case, in the face of urbanization pressure, the city government had to “invent” some financing methods to improve the city’s infrastructure. A popular way is the so-called franchise system. Under this model, private companies obtain contracts for new services (such as transportation, electricity, telephone, and steam) by bidding to the government. In fact, it is to maintain business by selling public utilities, and this has become the place with the most corruption.
All in all, in the late 19th century, Americans became more and more unequivocally aware that economic growth was accompanied by increasing poverty, exploitation, chaos and corruption, and liberal ideals were completely lost. And without the corresponding economic freedom, political freedom is meaningless. During this period, class conflicts began to break out in both urban and rural areas.Why are these problems occurring? To answer these questions, we must analyze Americans’ deep-rooted national governance concepts and corresponding governance models. For Americans, individualism is often accompanied by a fear of big government. To a large extent, this is the product of the revolutionary period. On this basis, the classical liberalism of the United States was formed, and its core was the laissez-faire capitalist economy and limited government.
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