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Changing Government Role and Economy in the Progressive Era

Progressive era: Evolution of the American Government and Economy


The progressive era holds its own important place in the history of United States. The era saw some major changes happening that led US on a new course. Some of these changes were related to governance. However, the changes that  happened in the era led US into the modern era. This is also why Robert Higgs famously described the era as the bridge to modern times. Progressive era is the era between mid-1890s and the early 1920s. The era saw the role of the government expanding and acquiring a new dimension. While in the 19th century the government’s role was limited, it had expanded a lot in the 20th century. Several economic reforms had taken place in the era including increased regulation, anti-trust activity, application of an income tax as well as the rise of social insurance programs. A major shift came in the government with the turn towards direct democracy. It gave the women the right to vote, professionalized government. Apart from that now the voters had a higher say in governance with the power to elect and recall political officials.


Moreover, there is a need to check out deeply the changes that happened in the form of governance during this era. The change that happened in the era can be defined in a single word as evolutionary. The United States government underwent a change which could be called evolution of the government. Once the recession was over in the 1890s, a period of relatively faster economic growth followed. The depression had been over in the 1890s and the economy had picked up pace. Industrial enterprises had played a major role in the return of economic activity. Their size after the recession grew fast. The result was a major change in employment relationships. People’s standard of living also underwent a major change. Better technology and education had played a significant role in this regard.  At the same time while all these changes were happening, the government took some major steps to change the laws that reflected the social and economic changes of the time. It introduced new policies at all the levels. These policies had the potential to foster a social change that suited the economic environment of the times. Industrial change was happening fast and the focus had to be shifted towards the situation of the workers. The new compensation laws were enacted to bring the employers’ attention towards the situation of the workers. Not just this, some major changes came in the field of law that proved to be more impressive and had far long lasting impact. The impact of Child Labor laws and Women’s hours laws was going to  be deeper. However, it was just the beginning of a new era in American History.