Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. History Dept.




In recent years critics have pilloried the Social Security Act of 1935 as just another incident of corporate control over the nation's public policy. In particular, critics have discerned in the unemployment compensation aspect of the law, Title Eight, a program precisely designed to cater to the needs of business at the expense of adequate relief to the unemployed. This study shows that such allegations of business control and influence over the development of Title Eight are misguided. Businessmen were simply neither powerful nor unified enough to manipulate the decisions of the high officials of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Administration. Moreover, both the President and his aides were not interested in shaping a program that primarily served the interests of business. They settled on the final form of Title Eight for two reasons: principle and pragmatism, out of a desire to provide relief to the unemployed without allowing the "dole," and out of an interest in developing a program which minimized the political and practical difficulties of unemployment compensation. The final result may have been a program which was far less than radical, but it was a drastic improvement over antecedent conditions and quite distinct from business notions of the proper unemployment compensation program. Because many critics have misperceived a preponderance of business control over the development of Title Eight, its real accomplishment has been obscured. Hopefully this paper will adequately demonstrate that Title Eight was just another means of one of the principal progressive ends of the New Deal: the promotion of freedom of opportunity and the establishment of social security.


United States -- Social Security Act, Insurance, Unemployment -- United States, Social security -- United States, New Deal, 1933-1939


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