American Public Policy in the Fifties: The Development of Dilemmas
During the 1950s, Eisenhower simultaneously developed public policy through control of military commitments abroad; for the individual, the ironic combination of consumer freedom, repressive social structures, and civil rights expansion; a protectionist stance on the economy coupled with a cautionary rejection of increased domestic spending; and the suffocation of political dissent with the blanket of patriotism. The 1950s serves as a point of restrictive reference, justifying its significance for past and future public policy.
Irreversibly changing American foreign policy between 1948 and 1951, the American government escalated its size, scale, and scope abroad, building friendships but also making enemies, intending to defeat the spread of Stalinist Communism across Eastern Europe and Asia and defending democratized freedom and prosperity. Out of the World War II economic boom at home, the United States supplemented the struggling financial structure of postwar Europe with the 1948 Marshall Plan. In addition, United States policy introduced the American military as an international police power, sponsoring militarization in “forty-seven nations and led American forces to build or occupy 675 overseas bases and station and station a million troops overseas” (Johnson 443). President Harry S. Truman escorted the United States into the 1950s by involving them in the Korean War. Wishing to commit military forces, he bypassed the United Nations Security Council and the approval of Congress to engage in the conflict between North and South Korea. Elected on a peace platform in 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower ended the Korean War by “breaking the armistice deadlock and, instead of planning to use nuclear force in secret, he employed nuclear threats in private diplomacy” (461). Still, the strength of Stalin stifled and eliminated isolationism.
Beginning in 1946, Americanism became synonymous with productivity with consumption with prosperity. Economically, the 1950s American enjoyed the utmost freedom to “eat, wear, enjoy, read, repair, paint, drink, see, ride, taste and rest in” (Johnson 457). The population exploded, suburbia erupted, and materialism emerged (Ehrenhalt 28). Ironically, the success of corporatism and community clouded the underlying restraint and forced incorporation of the individual. While enjoying the opportunity to marry and start a family, the 1950s America of incorporation allowed only that “chart to follow” (23). Where afforded the option to live in the newly pristine suburbs, the 1950s America of incorporation granted that trend as the inescapable fad for families. And while enjoying the freedom to buy, the 1950s America of incorporation dictated exactly what and how one could make such purchases. Whereas the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s, it received more media attention in 1964 amidst a decade of zealous revolution. During the...