1. a) The Second Industrial Revolution, which was also referred to as the Technological Revolution, occurred during the later decades in the 19th Century. This was the time where mass production and electrification was booming. During this time, the production line was also created, making factory work faster and more effective (Stearns,).
It was during this time that the countries involved in the revolution saw much economic growth, over a short period of time. The living standards of each country greatly improved, especially after the Civil War in the United States. Due to the increase in productivity, the price of certain goods dropped, allowing more people to have access to goods that they might not have been able to afford in the past.
Since there was a growth and improvement with technology, a great surge of unemployment was seen. More and more workers were being replaced with machines. There were a lot of older machines, ships and factories that were being displaced due to newer models. Many things were becoming obsolete in just a short period of time.
However, even though there was that problem with unemployment, crop failures, which were once a big issue, would not cause starvation any more. With the improved means of transportation, when crops would fail in one area, food can be outsourced from another, which allowed markets to connect to each other and benefit from the mutual business. Along with this, there were improvements in terms of public health access and public health initiatives. People were more aware of sanitation and regularly filtered water.
During the earlier years of this Industrial Revolution, the government was seen to stay at a distance when it comes to big businesses. Much of the nation, as well as the government, believed in the concept of laissez-faire economics. This means that they believed the economics of a certain market should be able to run freely, without having the government interfere or step in. Without this kind of regulation from the government, competition was encouraged and fair-priced goods were the result. This means that consumers would be able to afford the goods, and there would be no discrepancies when it came to price. Because of this belief in laissez-faire economics, the government, during the time, did not want to get in the way of what they thought “worked”.
Along with this, social Darwinism became a popular theory. This was taken from Charles Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest”, as well as evolution. It was believed that a healthy market would need to encourage competition, like in the natural world. This meant that the stronger groups would be able to survive and the plight of the poor will be minimized. The government was not prioritizing any kind of investment on the poor because, unlike a functionalist view on the economy, they believed that the poor had no positive impact on the nation.
b) While the new order seemed promising on paper, it actually did not lead to a free economy (Stearns,). Many people in the market saw that there were monopolies within the larger corporations. Smaller businesses were being pushed out of the picture. The idea of the “survival of the fittest” was less beneficial for the people, and it was only good for the bigger corporations who have managed to take over the entire market. There was a term known as “Robber Barons” that were being used to the wealthy and powerful businessmen during this age. They were being called robbers because of the price discrimination and the abuse they had over the poor. This term was applied to the businessmen who had particularly exploitative practices in order to grow their wealth. They were stealing from the poor in order to get richer.
Along with this realization, the market was soon becoming regulated. The large corporations grew in size and in power that they were able to almost completely control the entire market. Railroad monopolies were abusing their power and overcharging customers, especially famers. Favoritism was seen throughout the market economy where powerful politicians as well as richer, favored clients were being given rebates.
The American Civil War showed that the nation could be one politically, and this second industrial revolution was proof that the nation could be united economically. However, the unregulated free market was abused by those who had more power. Corruption and greed were very common things within the market, and people who were not as wealthy, especially famers, were the ones who were being abused.
In an effort to try and limit the abuse, the State legislatures trued to issue a maximum rate law. This forced the railroads to charge a fixed rate that they were not allowed to go over. This ceiling rate would allow farmers to travel and use the railroad without being overcharged. However, after this idea was presented to Congress, it was struck down. The members of the congress, who were probably the same politicians who were getting rebates on the railroads, claimed that the new laws were unconstitutional.
Although it was first dismissed, the public grew angrier at the unfair treatment they were receiving from big corporations. The practices of the larger corporations were getting out of hand and becoming more and more abusive. After some time of listening to the complaints of the public, the federal government started to change tune. Congress passed what was called the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887 (Chandler 100). This was an effort to stop the price discrimination that railroads would impose.
In the year 1890, the Congress passed what was known as the Sherman Antitrust Act. This act outlawed the trusts that would restrict free trade within the market economy. This was an act that was considered an important part of the period because it was one of the first which helped regulate business. However, during the early years of the act, it was hardly ever enforced, and the law was very lenient towards those who violated this act.
Although, because this act was not strict and was seen as loosely written, there were times where it achieved the opposite of what it was intended for. Instead of regulating the monopolies who were exploiting the poor, they were seen to empower them and limit the labor unions who were the ones challenging the bigger corporations. This included restraining the labor unions’ right to strike, which meant that the larger corporations again benefited from this law. It wasn’t until the 1900s when the government enforced the act in favor of the labor workers.
c) During the Gilded Age, or the Second Industrial Revolution, farmers and agrarian workers were the ones who suffered the most under the “free” market. They were exploited by the rich, and although they had numerous complaints, it took a while for anything to happen (Lamoreaux, et al.). The economic situation that the farmers faced involved the decline of the price in produce. During the time of the Civil War, farmers were seen to expand their land in order to provide food for soldiers. Shortly after this, they had to provide food for Europe during the Crimean War.
Since the farms were overextended even after the two wars, there was too much supply. This means that the price of their goods went down, and they had an increase in wastage. The price of producing these goods rose, while their profits dwindled. Farmers had to purchase equipment in order to maintain their farms and harvest their crop. Unfortunately, this equipment came at a very high price. This was due to the emergence of the trust where farmers were overpriced.
A lot of farmers, in order to keep their land, had to accept mortgages, even though they knew that there was no way to repay their debt. Over time, their debts increased due to deflation. These factors were sending farmers into great amounts of debt. A lot of farmers during the time opted to leave their crops, move their families to the city and work in sweatshops where they would be able to earn real wages.
A fraction of the farmers who still wanted to keep their property and their farms formed what was known as the Populist Party. They complained a lot, mostly about not being able to protest. They also claimed that newspapers and other forms of media suppressed the public’s opinion. During this time, many newspapers were owned by large corporations who were not concerned about the plight of the farmers.
The Populist party, despite their complaints, supported William McKinley, and other democrats. This movement helped form the democrat and republican parties that are present today. Even though the earlier democrat parties were misguided, yet well-meaning. The populist party was seen to help save American freedom during the time and lessen the abuse that the poorer farmers experienced from the bigger corporations who were corrupt.
2. a) The Progressive Era was known as a time for social activism as well as political reform. This occurred during the second industrial revolution, when there were hardly any regulations in the market economy and a number of people were suffering from exploitation. The Progressive Movement was known as some kind of purification of the government. This movement exposed the corruption in politics and attempted to eliminate exploitation (Eisenach).
There were generally four goals of this progressive movement:
1) To bring about change in people by having them adopt what was believed as the progressive mindset, which was mostly shared by the middle class members of society. This included issues regarding leisure, sexual orientation, family and behavior. The Progressivists wanted to bring back Victorian values to society.
2) The movement aimed to end the conflict between classes, this was between the farmers and the larger corporations as well as some corrupt politicians.
3.) To implement some sort of measure of control in order to segregate labor forces according to categories that are set.
4.) To separate or segregate society into smaller groups. These groups would be based on sex, occupation, race and immigration status.
Initially, this movement was seen at the local level. However, from the middle class supporters, it quickly spread.
Neo-conservatism during the Hardin-Hoover period which started in the 1920s was a republican group that believed that the government should be limited in their handling of economic matters (Vaïsse). They thought that the government should not dictate what happens in the market economy. During this time, businesses flourished, these types of actions reflected on their presidency. However, during the end of the term, it resulted in depression.
Along with this, there was a belief in cutting tax rates in order to stimulate the economy. The neoconservatives did not believe that a balanced budget will be able to create an environment where people would be able to thrive. This meant that they did not believe in the burden of the budget.
Another belief of this movement was the restoration of a more civil society. They believed that the culture of the United States continues to sink in terms of morale. They felt that they had the responsibility to restore the nation in terms of values, however it does not necessarily relate to Christian or Religious values.
The New Deal which was created by Franklin D. Roosevelt was an effort to improve the economy. It was made up of a series of economic programs. This involved certain laws which were passed by the congress. The programs were created in response to the Great Depression, which happened after the Neo-conservatism Movement. The focus of this new deal revolved around three Rs. These were Relief, Reform and Recovery, namely.
The new deal focused on relieving those who were greatly affected by the depression, which were the unemployed and the poor during the time. It aimed to recover the economy to a stable level, and the reform was for the financial system to be able to stop such a thing from happening again.
A number of historians believed that the New Deal did not only help the economies, but it restored hope in the nation. There were millions of desperate people who were looking for answers, they were unemployed and unable to feed their families. The new deal and the acts that came along with it was a good move by Roosevelt as he was able to upgrade the national infrastructure. This New Deal was also seen to keep capitalism (Leuchtenburg). Instead of looking for an easy way out, which involved nationalizing the banks and the railroads, Roosevelt looked for solutions that would be able to bring back self-respect to those who have already lost all hope in the nation.
b) All the movements and reforms during the earlier times, including those in the Second Industrial Revolution occurred for different reasons. Each movement had its own beliefs, and they were to bring the nation together, economically and politically. Although, not all of the movements’ weaknesses were realized until it was too late, they were built upon idealistic views of America.
The Progressive Movement was an answer to the exploitation of the poor (Eisenach). There were conflicts between classes, which had to end. This movement aimed to end this, and bring about change. Instead of being stuck in one situation, the progressive movement was about going forward and implementing change.
A type of control was to be seen within the market economy, which during the time was not regulated. Although, it did have its good points, like exposing corruption and ending exploitation, it also had its short-comings. However, this saw an opening for Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Neo-conservatism is much different from conservatism, and it is different from the neo-conservatism today (Vaïsse). This was seen to be more about taking the market economy back from the government. It was believed (again, much like laissez-faire economy) that the government should limit its power over the market economy. This kind of movement was for the people and so that the free market could continue.
The problem with the free market, as before, is that there will always be those who will exploit the lower classes. Economic matters during this time were not handled by the government, and although it was short, businesses during this time flourished. It is believed that the increased spending and the unstable stock market led to “The Crash”. It was the Roaring Twenties that ended right after a decade, which ended in the depression.
President Roosevelt’s New Deal was a great solution for the economy (Leuchtenburg). He chose to keep capitalism and save the economy by implementing policies that could help jump-start businesses and help people get back on track. Instead of imposing new laws which would benefit the government, he empowered the people. This included those who were poor and those who were unemployed. Although, there are criticisms for this New Deal, where people believed that through this, the federal government was enlarged. The New Deal also weakened small businesses because of the built-up and more confident labor unions.
Chandler, Alfred D. "Organizational capabilities and the economic history of the industrial enterprise." The Journal of Economic Perspectives 6.3 (1992): 79-100.
Eisenach, Eldon J. The lost promise of progressivism. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1994.
Lamoreaux, Naomi R., Margaret Levenstein, and Kenneth L. Sokoloff. Financing invention during the second industrial revolution: Cleveland, Ohio, 1870-1920. No. w10923. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2004.
Leuchtenburg, William Edward. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940. Vol. 3025. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.
Stearns, Peter N. The industrial revolution in world history. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993.
Vaïsse, Justin. Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement. Harvard University Press, 2010.