Decentralizing The Railroads After The Great War

1685 words - 7 pages

Although the Great War had ended and the Treaty of Versailles had been signed more than a year earlier, the United States was still working to return to a state of pre-war normalcy and peacetime production by the end of 1920. Manufacturing of war goods was scaled down and private businesses that were commandeered for wartime production purposes, were slowly being turned back over to their respective owners. Soldiers returning home were re-integrated into the working-class society, and women were cast back into their traditional pre-war homemaker roles. Despite this attempt at reestablishing the prewar societal structure, the US government received a great deal of pushback on several of its post-war policies from the general population ("Where Labor is Unfair" 8). These policies were seen by the public as concessions to big business from the national government, and thus warned that an end to the decades of heightened government regulations, trust busting, and union memberships seen in the Progressive Era of American politics before the war may have been approaching. A key example of this new-found public distrust in post-war American policy is presented in the Chicago Tribune on October 29, 1920, where the author of "Where Labor is Unfair" addresses and condemns the public outcry against the Transportation Act of 1920. This act's main function was to facilitate the return of railroads back into private hands, and thus appeared to many as a drastic reversal of pre-war Progressive politics by the government. Despite the unprecedented actions taken by the US government during World War One to implement heavy wartime production and subsequent return of industry to private ownership, the public's fears of returning to the days of the Robber Baron after the war were largely unfounded for a number of reasons.
The beginning of the twentieth century was host to a new, Progressive era which sparked a policy reversal by the federal government on its failing "Laissez Faire" stance on big business. By this time it was clear to lawmakers that the rift between workers and employers would only grow stronger and more violent, if the long-standing policies of limited government involvement in business were to remain unchanged. Corporate greed ran rampant as champions of industry amassed huge fortunes, while their workers were underpaid and overworked, and family-owned businesses were undercut and ultimately bought out by the large corporate conglomerations. The effectiveness of labor unions dwindled as scheming businessmen found new methods for overpowering them through the use of strikebreakers and other means. In addition to worker mistreatment, corporations were also known for their poor customer service and safety standards. Nowhere was this poor service quality more evident than within the railroad industry (Rich 507). As a result, the Sherman Anti-trust Act was established in 1890 and by the turn of the century Progressive Presidents such as Theodore...

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