A Democratic Paradise in a Capitalistic Inferno

           Riding the waves of reform from the late 1800’s, progressives sought a more permanent change to their quality of life when it came to major corporations. Campaigning alongside other major groups such as the socialist this group was after terms considered much less demanding but necessary nonetheless. This was a group dominated by the middle class as well as societal minorities such as women and African Americans who were seeing increases in their basic rights over recent years. Their agenda had been a conservative one, seeking a moral society but allowing the fundamental aspects of capitalism to remain intact.


         Journalistic muckrakers did their part in the revolution, dredging up the worst stories of neglect and abuse in factories and mines across the country. They would show these stories to the world, inciting massive union establishments throughout the nation, as well as mounting pressure on congress from the upset masses. Some businesses like a certain motor company headed by Henry Ford would counteract the mounting discontent with welfare capitalism, offering employees a decent living wage and ensuring their safety. This welfare idealism would lead into its own miniature economic boom, wherein the workers would use there new funds to bolster the economy. We even still see welfare capitalism used as a competitive aspect in the market job providers today, moreover the widely accepted forty hour work week system began with the same Ford around the same time.


           Eventually we did see the government cave to the glaring issues of this time and we did see some progress in a few areas. The advent of the seventeenth amendment finally allowed the citizenry to elect federal senators (Cornell 553). Some of these decisions were simply the result of supreme court cases and were not subject to their own separate litigation. Granted such a thing may be redundant but it can sometimes seem like the supreme court moves at a different pace from the rest of our checks and balances. We would see the advantage of minimum wage established by the government, as well as a culling of child labor, mandates on child education, a work schedule subject to the health of the people, and so many more things we take for granted now.


            Personally, I might actually think our regulation doesn’t go far enough even in today’s economic climate. That being said, I’m not exactly brimming with ideas on where we go from here. I do however highly recommend that anyone and everyone at least Google the term “Universal Basic Income,” but once again, I’m not exactly an economist. Either way I think we can all agree that the regulation of child labor is a must, and from personal experience I think the minimum wage can be necessary, especially when accounting for inflation, it simply would be impossible to live on a wage from the 1920’s today. As far as regulating work hours, I would see that more as a grey area, I think that a worker should be able to allow themselves the opportunity to work extended hours, but I don’t think it should ever be an inherent requirement.




Cornell, Saul T., Keene, Jennifer D., and O’Donnell, Edward T. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Combined Volume, 3/e. Boston: Pearson, n.d.

10 thoughts on “A Democratic Paradise in a Capitalistic Inferno

  1. After reading about the Progressive Era, I think one of the most interesting topics was the muckrakers. The muckrakers caught my attention because I thought it was interesting that coming up with stories that most people might have already already known about caused pressure on Congress and those massive unions. It’s even more interesting that some of the businesses like Henry Ford’s tried to counteract the stories by allowing those decent wages and conditions, as if they were “scared” of what the public thought of them.

    1. In a democracy, those in power should rightfully fear their citizenry, for in a true democracy the many supposedly have the power. However it’s hard to mobilize people across such a large landmass, that’s why the muckrakers are so important, to get these stories to everyone so that they can all be on the same page. Without our gracious instantaneous information that we have today revolutions were a lot more legwork.

    2. I agree! The muckrakers were a very interesting part of the progressive era. It was important to put pressure on congress to bring about reform. Muckrakers we a very important part of history because they got the stories out to everyone so they could all have the same information and formulate their opinions. Without muckrakers people would have no way to unite and go against congress.

  2. I agree, I think working more hours if needed should be allowed but not to increase the 40 hour/week we have because just the thought of doing that for the rest of my life scares me. Working 40 hours/week feels like you are giving up living, unless you absolutely love your job, you have very little time to do anything you enjoy.

  3. I also think the idea of universal basic income is an interesting concept, especially with more and more jobs being replaced by automation, and eventually artificial intelligence. I think that most people want to do something with their lives but many people get stuck in a rut where they’re just trying to survive.

    1. I agree the univeral basic income is an interesting concept. After Googling it and reading more about it, it seems more likely to occur with the more automation we create. I also have to agree with your second statement about surviving. I feel that this is especially true with people who live paycheck to paycheck, since they can’t really afford to do anything but survive.

    2. I too think that universal basic income is an interesting idea. The thought of it, though, kind of makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like the idea of people just getting the money without a need or having to work for it. At the same time I’m all for moving forward in technology so it’s kind of a hard idea for me to grasp.

  4. I completely agree with your statement, ” I think that a worker should be able to allow themselves the opportunity to work extended hours, but I don’t think it should ever be an inherent requirement.” I do not understand how anyone can make someone work mandated hours. I think their is still a lot of change needed in the workforce. Now minimum wage has increased I feel some people will have some relief with bills and such. I believe the progressives helped women have more rights as well and women started to have a voice in politics. It is sad that women are discriminated against even to this day. These men should realize how important women are to them. If it wasn’t for women these political and corporate male advisors would not be here. Women are powerful and I am glad that the Progressive Era helped pave the way for these women.

  5. I thought your introduction really stood out to me! I feel like the Progressives would’ve struggled much more had there not been the muckrakers and the exposés. I found your thoughts on regulation now very interesting. I looked up universal basic income and I find it clever but probably difficult to achieve and I think the government could set wide margins for regulation on hours but leave it ultimately to the employee and employer.

  6. Me personally I believe that government should have no say in our free market economy when it comes to that actual business end of things. I do believe that it is important to have a base of safety regulations to protect workers. I don’t believe that a universal base income would be a good idea. I know that it is a certain sum of money that individuals are recieving and I believe this will completly demotivate society.

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