Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Capitalism: Tamed but Triumphant Today the Monitor Begins Three Days of Coverage Marking Nine Decades of Its Publication. Wednesday's Issue Will Include a Special 90th Anniversary Section. Series: Celebrating 90 Years

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Capitalism: Tamed but Triumphant Today the Monitor Begins Three Days of Coverage Marking Nine Decades of Its Publication. Wednesday's Issue Will Include a Special 90th Anniversary Section. Series: Celebrating 90 Years

Article excerpt

A century that began with a surge of raw capitalism is ending with capitalism victorious. It dominates the world.

Communism, which sprang to importance with the Russian revolution of 1917, has gone down to defeat. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, a symbol of the end.

Socialism, a nonauthoritarian half sister of communism, which also promotes state-owned enterprises, still lives - but barely. It is fading fast in the developing world where it has held on in some countries for years. The robber barons who flourished in the first decade or so of the 1900s have been tamed in the industrial world. Their monopolies have been destroyed or shaken by antitrust laws and other government regulation. In the United States, the inadequate Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was bolstered by the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914. Back then, John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil, which controlled 85 percent of the US domestic oil trade, felt the might of federal trustbusters. Today it is Microsoft that is under the gun. In Russia, a few robber barons flourish after picking up state enterprises at rip-off prices. To outsiders, they have the primitive air of the frozen mammoths that are uncovered occasionally in the tundra of Siberia. One reason capitalism has thrived is its vitality. It creates wealth and jobs like no other economic system. Another reason is that capitalism gradually became more humane. The enemies of free enterprise had less to complain about. Child labor, for example, has greatly diminished, certainly in the richer nations. In the US, Congress in 1916 outlawed the interstate trade of goods produced in factories where children under age 14 worked. At the time, 13 percent of the textile industry's workforce were children. Two years later, the Supreme Court said Congress had exceeded its powers. But better treatment of children continued. Jolts to the system Trade unions grew more powerful, fighting for better wages, improved safety, fewer work hours, and other benefits. In the early part of the century, the Wobblies, the nickname for the Industrial Workers of the World, scared capitalists with their radical socialist and anarchistic views. But they faded away in the conservative society of America. They were replaced by the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the CIO merged in 1955, a time close to the peak of union power in America. Since then greater industrial efficiency, anti-union managements, the rise of service businesses, and prosperity have shrunk the proportion of workers represented by unions in the US - to less than 15 percent of non-farm workers today. The economic misery of the Great Depression of the 1930s, with output dropping 30 percent in the US, brought further moderation to the rigors of capitalism. The system needed repairs. Washington politicians may nowadays talk about an end to the era of Big Government. Yet the heritage of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal remains. Both Republicans and Democrats talk about saving the Social Security system set up under FDR. That law also introduced unemployment insurance and disability payments, both unassailable. Bank deposits are safe because of FDR's federal deposit insurance. The Glass-Steagall Act separated commercial from investment banking - a separation that has been partly dribbled away in the past two decades. The Tennessee Valley Authority was created. Government regulation was expanded over electric power and transportation. Workers won the right to bargain collectively under the Wagner Labor Relations Act of 1935. At least as important, the Depression changed thinking on the role of government. Influenced by the famed British economist John Maynard Keynes, politicians over the next few decades saw the use of monetary and fiscal policies as necessary to stave off major slumps. These policies worked. The Federal Reserve, created in 1913 to deal with financial panics, learned from its mismanagement of the nation's money in the Great Depression. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.