The central domestic issue during the first decades of the 20th century concerned regulation of the economy. While Republicans continued to push the development of national infrastructure, Democrats took on a populist approach, which defended the common man in the face of large corporate trusts. They were decidedly anti-monopoly and pro-labor union, but still held to a small government mindset.
By the end of the fourth party system (1896 – 1932), though, this small government mindset had changed. After the publication of Herbert Croly’s “The Promise of American Life” in 1909, and Frederick Taylor’s “The Structure of Scientific Management” in 1911 the Democratic Party came to believe that the federal government, and in many respects only the federal government, could address what it perceived as problems becoming ever more evident in American society. In a natural extension of its previous populism, the Democrats began advocating for state resources to be used to help the economically destitute in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression.
- One of the premises of having a large bureaucracy managing much of the economy is that it will do so in an evenhanded, nonpartisan way. Do you believe that government officials are impartial? Or do you believe they favor one or the other party and the people in it? When interacting with government officials, do you get the sense that they are serving you? Or that you are subject to their authority?
- Scientific management has been remarkably effective in increasing production and lowering cost in the economy. What reasons might make it difficult for the same principles to be applied to government? Are there ways in which it might be more efficient in government institutions than private companies?
This reading is an excerpt from Certell’s Common Sense Government eBook. Certell offers curriculum materials and eBooks free of charge for use by students and teachers. Click Here to download the Common Sense Government materials.
10, March 2011, Comic about Taylorism, Scientific Management [Digital image]. Retrieved from <google.com>.