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The Jungle:

Government Involvement and Industrialists' Exploitation

The government during the early 20th century employed the policy of laissez faire, giving free rein to industrial barons to shape their field according to their own interests to cultivate an active and competitive economy. During this time, very little government supervision over industries was enforced and few regulations restricting the industrialists' whim were created. Because of this lack of regulation, child labor was not restricted by government and was overlooked by industrialists, enabling their mass exploitation of child workers. Sinclair mentions this aspect of the time:

"it was against the law for children to work before they were sixteen...[but] the law made no difference except that it forced people to lie about the ages of their children." (30)

This excerpt shows the indifference of the government during the Gilded Age. Its relaxed law enforcement provided industrialists with opportunities to fully take advantage of cheap child labor. Sinclair continues, describing the effects of a lax government and profit-minded industrialists:

"One would like to know what the lawmakers expected them to do; there were families that had no possible means of support except the children, and the law provided them no other way of getting a living. Very often a man could get no work in Packingtown for months, while a child could go and get a place easily; there was always some new machine, by which the packers could get as much work out of a child as they had been able to get out of a man, and for a third of the pay."(31)

Children were thus readily and ruthlessly exploited by industrialists.

 

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