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Old May 17th, 2018, 07:35 AM   #1
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Industrial Revolution in USA, social questions and comparison wie Europe


I am interested in the question about the industrial revolution in the USA, especially from the social point of view and differences in the development in comparison to Europe, especially with GB, F and and Germany.

Would you agree that there were stronger union and workers movements in Europe than in the US? That there was more sympathy for Marxist ideas?

If you have good links I would apreciate.
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Old May 17th, 2018, 12:13 PM   #2
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Well in the US Socialist Parties didn't emerge the same way as the rest of the Western world for several reasons.

One our political party's were not ideology based(if your parents were Democrats you would be a Democrat and you would find like minded Democrats regardless of your political beliefs and vice e versa with the main exception I can think of being the tariff issue) and both had reformist and conservative wings. In Europe political parties were more ideology based and Marxists started their own party, while in the US, the would be Marxist audience was diverted to William Jennings Bryan and TR's Progressive Republicans. While their was a Socialist Party it was a relatively minor force never reaching double digits and it's limited success came quite late compared to the Socialist movements in Europe.

Another difference was that the US even after industrialization had a larger agrarian class and didn't have the industrial worker class that Europe had, per a percentage of the population. As a result you'll notice in the US at the same time Marxism was really catching on in Europe you had farmers rather than industrial workers at the heart of radical US politics with industrial workers not having the numbers to gain the political power they did in say Germany at the same time.

Unions did not become an established right until the 1930s in the US. Another key way, Marxism was kept away from the US is that pro corporate interests were able to get workers to buy into their protectionist agenda and blame foreign goods for lower wages rather than their bosses. While this was by no doubt unanimous, workers were not on the same page about how to remedy the inequality of the gilded age which when combined with their smaller vote share greatly reduced their power relative to Europe. Workers began voting as a bloc for pro union policy once tariffs as an economic idea were rejected during the Great Depression after President Hoover tried it as a remedy to the situation and started a trade war(which I think has been misleadingly used to discredit tariffs ever since) Without high tariffs as a proposed remedy to(which was the only bipartisan ideological issue that remained constant all the way from the 19th century to the great depression, Democrats always supported lower tariffs their competition always supported higher ones)workers problems the pro business Republicans had no way to appeal to the working class. It was in this decade that the New Deal and FDR's agenda was passed with overwhelming support. But yeah the capitalist class was far better at convincing the working class to vote for their interests than in Europe.
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Old May 17th, 2018, 12:50 PM   #3
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Prior to 1932 the political divide in America was urban vs rural, not management vs labor. Labor and management both tended to vote Republican. It was the Great Depression that really broke that mold. Consequently, laws were not passed to support labor unions until the 1930s.


In Europe there has been a greater tendency to believe that once born into the working class, that is where one will stay. In America, there has been more faith or hope that a person might rise. Business leaders have been able to exploit this hope by making the argument "Don't attack the rich too much because you might be rich yourself one day."
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Old May 18th, 2018, 12:39 AM   #4

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I think the posts above have a number of good points, and I think there is a lot of truth to them. Still...


During the interwar period I think there is a possible case to be made for Europe being less socialist than FDRs US. My (commonly called "socialist" by conservative Americans) country for example had lower overall tax pressure as a percentage of GDP than the US up until the early 1960s, despite being ruled by a "Social Democratic" party ever since 1932. Sweden, together with Japan, also had the fastest economic growth in the world between 1980 and 1930 - this was not because of socialist, or even corporatist policies but rather free market ones.

Similarly, France (renowned today for their incessant strikes, inefficient bureaucracy and high taxes) probably had the most free market policies of any of the major European powers in the inter-war years under Paul Reynaud, who once famously, in opposition to minimum wage policies if I am not mistaken made the quote of: "We live in a free market. For a the market to work we have to play by its rules." (or something like that). This was at the same time FDR was realizing his "New Deal" in the states. If World War 2 had not happened I believe there is a case to be made that the US might be more "progressive" than Europe. The picture needs to be nuanced. Europe is not a monolith. Marxism was popular yes, especially among intellectuals, and probably more among european workers than american ones. This does not mean Marxism was the central mass movement among the urban proletariat of Europe. There were marxist revolutions in Germany after World War I, but they were actually put down largely by the German Social Democrats, who went on to become arguably the main political movement in Weimar Germany. The British labour party also have a largely home-grown tradition that is non-revolutionary in nature, same for the Scandinavia and Dutch (I think) labour movements. Switzerland never had a socialist government, or something even close to it.


I think the main difference between the US and Europe in these matters is that Europe is, generally, inherently more elitist. I think Emperor of Wurtemburg is wrong (sorry to disagree with you again) to claim capitalists managed to convince the masses to come to their side to a greater degree in the US than in Europe. Sometimes that is true, yes - it is certainly true that the US has had less direct market interference than in Europe, for much of modern history (and still has in many ways). But is being "pro-market" and "pro-business" the same? One illustrative example of this point is Teddy Roosevelt and the american progressive movement's passing of anti-trust laws in the early 1900s. Nothing like this existed in Europe for quite some time, often not in the fully fledged US sense until the formation of the EU. Not in Germany. Not in Britain. Maybe in France, but I do not think so. The reason is that in Europe monopolies were often encouraged by the government through conscious industrial policy, as a way to balance social interests (the existing capitalists get priviliged access to the market in exchange for them agreeing to support job security and some welfare programs for the workers).

Not to be too provincial, but the Swedish system is really quite interesting here. Even today we have quite low corporate taxes (less than 2/3:rds the US rate) and capital gains taxes, but much higher income taxes and VAT. Essentially our welfare state is payed for by the middle classes, while the poor who live on welfare and the very rich and self-employed (who pay corporate/ capital gains taxes) are much more lightly taxed in proportion to their income. The system is perverse from a moral standpoint in my opinion, but is quite effective in making sure capital and industry remains in the country - although worse in encouraging new capital and know-how to remain here... - while simultaneously giving the people a strong universal safety net. In other words: "The state and the capitalists are in the same boat", to quote a not so internationally famous punk band from the 70s.

Last edited by NordicDemosthenes; May 18th, 2018 at 12:56 AM.
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Old May 18th, 2018, 12:50 AM   #5
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Thanks for your answers, guys. Which steps were taken to solve the main social problems in the US?
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Old May 18th, 2018, 12:53 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chlodio View Post
Prior to 1932 the political divide in America was urban vs rural, not management vs labor. Labor and management both tended to vote Republican. It was the Great Depression that really broke that mold. Consequently, laws were not passed to support labor unions until the 1930s.


In Europe there has been a greater tendency to believe that once born into the working class, that is where one will stay. In America, there has been more faith or hope that a person might rise. Business leaders have been able to exploit this hope by making the argument "Don't attack the rich too much because you might be rich yourself one day."

But there is also a tradition of american egalitarianism isn't there, connected to this idea of "from rags to riches"? I think Toqueville remarked that America's rich are much less ostentatious in showing their wealth than in Europe (how things have changed...) for example...



I agree with your claims of elitism though. In some ways the Industrial revolution seems to have recreated something mirroring the previous feudal system or at least the medieval cities (unqique groups with their unique priviliges) in much of Europe, after a short period of "liberal anarchy" in the mid 1800s. This is my reading of history anyway...
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Old July 7th, 2018, 09:28 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by NordicDemosthenes View Post
But there is also a tradition of american egalitarianism isn't there, connected to this idea of "from rags to riches"? I think Toqueville remarked that America's rich are much less ostentatious in showing their wealth than in Europe (how things have changed...) for example...

I agree with your claims of elitism though. In some ways the Industrial revolution seems to have recreated something mirroring the previous feudal system or at least the medieval cities (unqique groups with their unique priviliges) in much of Europe, after a short period of "liberal anarchy" in the mid 1800s. This is my reading of history anyway...
Yes, there is a long-standing tradition in America that with hard work and lots of sweat (and creativity), a smart person born poor or of modest means can become wealthy. This may be true everywhere for all I know, but I know that tradition exists here. I know, because I have witnessed it. I have witnessed the reverse as well: it is equally possible for a smart, intelligent and hard-working person can also lose everything. Luck and serendipity play their parts.

It may be easier to start a business in America than in Europe because there are fewer rules and regulations in the way of the budding entpeneur here, but generalizing about a place as diverse as Europe is probably not smart.

During the Gilded Age, some of the wealthy were incredibly wealthy and many of them saw themselves as a sort of royalty, but royalty based on money and not on anything inherited. Remember, this was at a time when there were no income taxes at all and no inheritance taxes either. And, on the other side of the coin, the poor were very poor indeed and there was no government-funded social net to catch anyone.

We never had any kings, queens or nobility of any kind so that level of social status simply didn’t exist here. In the earliest days of our existence, very nearly everyone was a farmer. I doubt most folks thought they were poor because nearly everyone was on the same level. They lived frugal lives and cash money was always short. When everyone is “poor”, no one is really “poor”; they are just living their lives.

The Declaration of Independence say that “all men are created equal”, but after that “creation” differences begin to emerge because clearly not all people are equally intelligent, or equally ambitious, or equally street smart, and those differences are cumulative. This means that one intelligent, ambitious and street smart person might accumulate a great fortune that is passed on to future generations. Or, he could lose it overnight in a stock marke crash.
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Old July 7th, 2018, 10:07 AM   #8
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In the earliest days of our existence, very nearly everyone was a farmer. I doubt most folks thought they were poor because nearly everyone was on the same level. They lived frugal lives and cash money was always short. When everyone is “poor”, no one is really “poor”; they are just living their lives.
This isn't true. All farmers in the early U.S. were not equal economically (being poor but they didn't know they were poor) and were always cash short. In fact, the Pennsylvania Quakers did very well growing wheat, purchasing new farms for their male children as they entered adulthood and investing in bonds for their retirement. There were varying levels of economic success between groups like the Quakers and barter farmers who had and used little cash.
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Old July 7th, 2018, 11:07 AM   #9

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Originally Posted by Marek1964 View Post
I am interested in the question about the industrial revolution in the USA, especially from the social point of view and differences in the development in comparison to Europe, especially with GB, F and and Germany.

Would you agree that there were stronger union and workers movements in Europe than in the US? That there was more sympathy for Marxist ideas?

If you have good links I would apreciate.
The start of organised industrial action came out of France and England in the late 18th and early 19thc, machine breaking especially. Marx was late to the game really
The UK trade unions were stronger, less corruptible and from a much older tradition than in the USA.

Quote:
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We never had any kings, queens or nobility of any kind so that level of social status simply didn’t exist here. In the earliest days of our existence, very nearly everyone was a farmer. I doubt most folks thought they were poor because nearly everyone was on the same level. They lived frugal lives and cash money was always short. When everyone is “poor”, no one is really “poor”; they are just living their lives.
The nobility just owned the land and they employed a , sometimes hated, 'squiarchy' to manage it.

In the UK most people would not have been 'farmers' pre and post industrial revolution. They would have been agricultural labourers. Even in 1851 'ag lab' was still the top listed occupation, above coal miners and mill labourers, (England census)
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Old July 7th, 2018, 12:31 PM   #10
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I think this is a classic: https://www.amazon.com/Why-there-Soc...ialism+america
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