Progressivism was a worldwide movement
Cities around the world experienced problems caused by industrialization and massive growth
1850 - only London and Paris had a population of more than a million
1900 - 12 cities in Europe and the US with populations over a million
International exchange of ideas
Britain, France, and Germany created old age pensions, minimum wage laws, unemployment insurance, and regulated workplace safety
American reformers started to advocate for similar "social legislation"
Basic changes in the functions of political authority of political authority
To check the power of corporations, protect consumers, civilize market relations, or guarantee industrial freedom in the workplace
Influenced by Gilded Age and European reforms, Progressives sought to renew notions of an activist, socially conscious government
Progressivism was a worldwide movement. In the early twentieth century, cities around the world experienced similar problems caused by industrialization and massive growth. In 1850, only two cities—London and Paris—had a population of more than 1 million; by 1900, there were twelve in Europe and the United States (New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia). Reformers around the world exchanged ideas and proposed new social policies. As Britain, France, and Germany created old age pensions, minimum wage laws, unemployment insurance, and regulated workplace safety, American reformers started to advocate such "social legislation."
Progressives thought modern society required basic changes in the functions of political authority, whether to check the power of corporations, protect consumers, civilize market relations, or guarantee industrial freedom in the workplace. Influenced by Gilded Age and European reforms, Progressives sought to renew notions of an activist, socially conscious government. They rejected old assumptions that powerful government threatened liberty. They saw freedom as a positive, not a negative, concept, in which freedom represented the power of the government to intervene in public and private life to improve society.
In America, with a decentralized, federal system of government, most Progressive reforms were enacted at the state and local levels. Progressives attempted to reduce the power of political bosses, assert public control over "natural monopolies" like gas and water works, and improve public transportation. They raised property taxes to spend more on schools, parks, and other public facilities. And because state legislatures defined the powers of city governments, urban Progressives often took reform campaigns to the state level. The most influential state-level Progressive administration was that of Robert M. La Follette, who made Wisconsin a "laboratory for democracy." After serving as a Republican congressman, La Follette became convinced that an alliance of railroad and lumber companies controlled state politics. When elected governor in 1900, he passed a series of measures that came to be known as the "Wisconsin Idea": nominations of candidates for elections through primary elections rather than party bosses, taxation on corporate wealth, and state regulation of railroads and public utilities.