Business Dynamics of the Progressive Era
In his book Drift & Mastery, Walter Lippmann suggests certain business dynamics in the America of the Progressive era, and he writes his book form the position of a journalist, beginning with the then-current attitude of belief accorded those who made accusations against business, government, and other controlling interests in American life. He finds this situation somewhat incredible, and indeed what he says has resonance for our own age, given the dedication of many to conspiracy theories and to the belief that the “powers that be” are operating in their own interests and manipulating the rest of us to our detriment. Lippmann finds that the exposTs of the muckrakers found a wiling audience, and indeed he states that the most remarkable thing about the muckraking era was that “muckraking was what people wanted to heart” (Lippmann 24). He also finds that the muckrakers produced more heat than light in that they never identified the underlying forces at work, the reasons business and its image alike were changing, or the directions of those changes. Lippmann tries to answer some of these questions and finds that the people are trying to take control of a business system which was once the field of the entrepreneur and the creator but which is increasingly the field of the investment and banking experts (Lippmann 51).
Lippmann points out both the stated view that the consumer is king and determines the course of industry and the fact that few consumers feel the power said to be theirs:
The consumer is sometimes represented as the person whose desires govern industry. Actually, he is an ignorant person who buys in the dark (Lippmann 52).
The work force is a part of the production apparatus a well, and the work force had long been frozen out of decision-making. The agitation for labor unions is described by Lippmann as a search for greater democracy:
Now men don’t agitate for democracy because it is a fine theory. They…