CHANGING LIVING STANDARDS
OF AMERICAN LABOR
"Standards of living—the goals we set for ourselves as consumers of goods and services and as users of leisure time, and our norms for conditions of work—have always been a dynamic economic factor in the United States." 1
The current high level of consumption and standard of living of American workers reflect more than a century of industrial and economic growth, accompanied by important technological changes and changes in the characteristics of the population and social structure. A compelling desire to improve their way of life brought the first settlers to the eastern seaboard and made them and their children willing to accept the material privation of the frontiers as they pushed westward. They experienced firsthand the rising levels of living that accompanied increased productivity and sought to establish social and political systems to help them achieve these goals. Thus, recognition that the essential purpose of political action is the improvement of the level of living of citizens has been our political heritage.
Before 1860, the rural character of 80 per cent of the population, the lack of communications, the abundance of free land, and the preoccupation with land development generally made living problems and working conditions matters of local concern. However, the dominant economic thinker of this period, Henry____________________