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The Ideas of Democracy and Freedom in America


The First World War and democracy

The First World War led to the destruction of property, loss oflives, realignment of power, and the development of a new worldorder. It is imperative to note that the course of the war underminedpeople’s liberties yet its aftermath enhanced democracy. Perhaps,the biggest destabilization effect of the war on democracy was inRussia. Before the war broke out, Russia was a totalitarian country,which was changing fast and developing institutions of rule of law,civil society, and representation. According to Macmillan (2014), thecountry would have become a democratic country, but instead, theautocracy authority collapsed and replaced by a dreadful communism,which affected the world negatively. America had vowed to remainneutral but the decision by Germany to stop American vessels fromentering or leaving British contributed to America’s entry into thewar. In pursuing a Declaration of War against Germany, PresidentWoodrow opined, “The world must be made safe for democracy. Itspeace must be planted upon the tested foundations of politicalliberty,” (Wilson, 1917). Thus, he reasoned that as a great forceof fairness, America ought to support nationalism andself-determination for the oppressed. Its entry eventually led to thedefeat of the Central Powers and world peace since America enteredthe war as an associate.

The war led to the creation of new countries, for example, Iraq andYugoslavia and contributed to the collapse of some empires, such as,the Ottoman Empire. The Allies assumed a greater role in theestablishment of political orders and their empires allowed theircolonies to live in harmony. America challenged the divided Europefor world leadership leading to the establishment of the League ofNations. The League of Nations managed to enhance peace andprotection of people’s rights, but only for sometimes (Macmillan,2014). During and after the war, many people migrated to America,which created a new world problem. The increased migration led toracial and ethnic differences and the stimulated demand for astandardized national culture, exceptionalism, and Americanization.Americans reacted with anger and dismay on the development of theVersailles Treaty, which undermined democracy in America andthroughout the world.

Consumerism and its effect on freedom and American lives

The rise of commerce and the creation of a market economy driven bywage labor and capitalist economics led to consumerism and modernadvertising. According to Macmillan (2014), the war advanced Americanbusinesses and economy making it the largest manufacturer. MajorPowers focused their attention on the war thus, they were unable toproduce enough goods for trade. Moreover, their manufacturing unitswere exclusively for armaments, which allowed America to produce moregoods. After the war, businesses flourished and demand increasedleading to the development of advertising. The proliferation of manyand diversified consumer goods meant that business people had tomarket and promote their goods to satisfy the increased desires andneeds. Consumerism and advertising appealed to lots of people andpopularized jazz, technology, modernity, and changes in culture andlifestyle. Societies progressed and became conscious of the changingarrangements creating progressiveness and respect for civil rights(Foner, 2013). Advertising and consumerism contributed to thedevelopment of radio and moving pictures, which promotedexpressionism, dissemination of information, freedom, attainment ofsuffrage, and the free expression of ideas. Americans started to usecredits to acquire goods especially on high purchase terms alteringtheir daily lives. Some consumer goods, for example, fridges, washingmachines, and vacuum cleaners reduced demand for servants by easingand transforming work. Furthermore, advertisements detailed how theownership of these goods guaranteed to reduce labor and toil hence,afford more time for women to nurture their families and values.Advertising concentrated on the cultivation of needs and wants byappealing to consumers to buy particular goods. Consumerism, credits,and advertising influenced modern economics, capitalism, and freedom.

Congress and the Supreme Court’s erosion of Progressive eraachievements

The Progressive Era allowed the government to help industries andbusinesses operate at maximum efficiency. The movement helped greatlyto eliminate corruption. However, after the war, America experiencedstagnation, numerous and major war contracts were canceled, andmillions of veterans returned disillusioned and looking for jobs.From 1914 until 1920, the country experienced high inflation ratesand increased cost of living (Foner, 2013). Most Americans felt thata booming economy was the only path to recovery and anything thatseemed to hinder businesses was counterproductive and unpatriotic.The Supreme Court upturned the gains of the era by raising protectivetariffs, giving corporations more freedom, and decreasing taxes forthe rich. The government saw strikes and union activities as some ofthe impediments to the economy and dealt with them punitively. Thecourt declared strikes by unions as unconstitutional and sanctionedthe utilization of antitrust laws against these unions. On the otherhand, the Congress lowered the income rate for the rich and increasedimportation duties to protect American firms from global competition(Foner, 2013). The Congress and the courts defined freedom as theright to pick ones working situations. The two agencies suggestedthat freedom was greatly associated with wealth and a boomingeconomy thus, the country would only realize greater freedom if itseconomy performed well. According to the agencies, the idea to raisethe protective tariff or cut the taxes for the rich was borne out ofthe suffering most people endured under the backdrop of a stagnatingeconomy. In prohibiting boycotts, the court opined that a boomingeconomy was necessary for people to realize independence hence, itwas impossible to enjoy freedom in an underperforming economy. Inthis regards, the Supreme Court used independence and its associationto freedom to justify its action to bar union strikes.


Foner, E. (2013).&nbspGive me liberty! An American history:Seagull Fourth Edition&nbsp(Vol. 1). WW Norton &amp Company.

Macmillan, M. (2014). World War I: The war that changed everything.The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 14 November 2016 fromhttp://www.wsj.com/articles/world-war-i-the-war-that-changed-everything-1403300393

Wilson, W. (1917, April). Making the world ‘safe for democracy’:Woodrow Wilson asks for war. In&nbspSixty-Fifth Congress,Session&nbsp(Vol. 1).