Calvin Coolidge once mentioned that the chief business of the American people is business. The close working relationship between American business, government, and its civilian labor force has come to build America into an imposing World Power. The huge levels of prosperity, productivity, and economic output experienced by America in the 1920’s is a strong reflection of these working ties. The emergence of new industries would come to feed the American appetite for industrial expansion. Industries such as aviation, chemical, and electronics would come to introduce increased opportunity and wealth for those bold enough to pioneer innovative technologies and their applications. These industries would also come to employ thousands of civilian workers, helping to support many American families. Many currently established industries such such as manufacturing would come to adopt Henry Ford’s assembly line model, which would only serve to accelerate production within these industries. It is my opinion that it is this close working relationship between business and government, while still taking into account the plights and personal freedoms of the individual laborer, that would come to solidify America’s position at the top of the global food chain.
The 1920’s would also bring an explosive expansion of filmmaking in both Hollywood and the rest of the world, and large urban theaters would start to be constructed to deliver the subliminal messages and social norms derived from these films to vast audiences. Many of the films produced by Hollywood would come to express “the American way of life”, and these films would serve to spread the image of high wages, efficient factories, and the mass production of consumer goods to not only the American people, but other advanced societies around the globe. Largely successful business men, such as Henry Ford, would come to be considered cultural heroes, and many photographers and painters would come to gain a sense of fascination with the complexity of factories and their machinery. The beneficial effects of a prosperous business industry portrayed by many of these films and artistic works would come to help establish an overall positive image of American business.
The increased scrutiny regarding the relationship between business and the American people would bring changes to big business as well. Recognizing the importance of a positive working relationship with the American people, many of Americas largest businesses would establish public relations departments during this time. The objective of these departments was to communicate to the public the justification for many of the criticized corporate practices that may otherwise be left unaddressed. The success of big business on the scale of the American and Global economy relied upon a healthy working relationship between itself and the source of it labor force, the American public. No longer could big business ignore the criticism of the public, and this criticism would come to influence the development of American business through to the present day. This close and accepted working relationship between business and the American people would prove a vital element in America’s assent to the top of the global power structure, as the general popular attitude regarding big business would come to be influenced by these actions.
One popular change that would prove to be influenced by the major labor unions of the time would be the introduction of employer provided pensions, medical insurance plans. As well as increases in overall job security, and workplace safety. While it can be argued that these advancements in employer provided benefits were only established in an attempt to reduce the influence of popular labor unions, the overall increase in benefits to the workforce has come to foster a vibrant American middle class. These advancements would also establish a culture of employer provided benefits that would continue to the present day, and culture which would only prove to expand over time. This form of leadership, known ad welfare capitalism, would attempt to reflect a business that was more socially conscious that attempts to pay more attention to the “human factor” in employment. While the interest of the American worker may of not always been the immediate priority of employers, the fact remains that a happy worker is a productive worker. The employer has a general interest in maintaining this morale among their employees, and those American businesses that respect these realities will be the ones to succeed.
Throughout American history American businesses have certainly experienced their fair share of scandals, but the constant negotiations between business and its labor force has created a national dialog among these parties. American business has brought to market many products in an effort to improve our lives, while also providing many Americans with stable income with which to support their families. The benefits and income provided by these companies would allow their employees a chance to focus less on survival, giving them the peace of mind to develop into an interest in leisure activities and other forms of recreational consumption. Establishing this culture of consumption would come to develop a market where the consumer is dependent on the manufacturer, but this has also resulted a situation where business now relies upon the consumer to continue to produce demand for their products. This mutual reliance would serve to establish a delicate balance between the two interest, and this working relationship has certainly aided in establishing the United States as a major world power.
Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty: An American History. New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 2014. Print.