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...