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Resulting from the influence of the Progressive movement and the New Deal, Liberals
believe that government should regulate the economy to protect people from the power
of large corporations and wealthy elites. They believe the government should help the
disadvantaged through social programs and taxing the wealthy. They believe most
social problems have their roots in economic inequality. Conservatives believe that
the free enterprise system (with little government intervention) is the way to organize
society. They oppose high taxes and government programs that transfer wealth from
the rich to the less wealthy. They believe that most social problems result from issues
of morality and character. The revival of conservative ideas occurred for two
reasons. Some Americans felt that liberal ideas were leading the U.S. toward
communism. Because communism rejected religion, Americans with deep religious
faith saw communism as a struggle over values. Liberalism, which focused on
economic welfare, lost the support of many religious Americans who turned to
conservatism. In 1964, the new conservative movement had enough influence to
enable conservative Barry Goldwater to win the Republican nomination for president.
From that defeat to the landslide victory of conservative Ronald Reagan in 1980,
American society moved decisively in a conservative direction. Many Americans
looked to conservative ideas out of fear that society had lost touch with traditional
values during the 1960s and 1970s. The Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade
(legalizing abortion) and the limitation of prayer in public schools shocked deeply
religious Americans. Ronald Reagan offered hope to these conservative voters.
President Reagan adopted a new foreign policy that rejected containment and
détente in favor of a new stance toward the USSR of “peace through strength”.
He launched the largest peacetime military buildup in American history,
including the funding of the controversial Space Defense Initiative (Star Wars).
Reagan believed that the U.S. should support guerrilla groups trying to overthrow
Communist or pro-Soviet governments. This became known as the Reagan Doctrine,
and led to U.S. involvement in the Middle East and Central America. This policy led to
the Iran-Contra Crisis during his second administration. In December 1987, Reagan
and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate -Range Nuclear Forces
(INF) Treaty that called for the destruction of nuclear weapons. The USSR reduced
military spending, which eventually led to economic and political reforms and
the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.


By the late 1980s, the Soviet economy suffered from inefficient central planning and
huge expenditures on the arms race. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev instituted
Perestroika (restructuring) to help save the economy by allowing some private
enterprise and profit-making. Gorbachev’s other principle Glasnost (openness)
allowed for more freedom of religion and speech. Glasnost spread to Eastern Europe
in 1989. Peaceful revolutions replaced Communist rulers with democratically
elected governments in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and
Bulgaria. The revolution spread to East Germany where on November 9, 1989,
the Berlin Wall was finally opened. Within a year, East and West Germany had
reunited. In August 1991, a group of Communist officials staged a coup against
Gorbachev. With the leadership of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the coup was put
down and Gorbachev was released. Gorbachev announced the end of the Soviet
Union and most former Soviet republics joined a federation called the Commonwealth
of Independent States. Despite the end of communism in Eastern Europe, China’s
communist leaders were determined to remain in power. China continued to repress
political speech and dissent. In May 1989, Chinese students and workers held
demonstrations for democracy. In early June, government tanks and soldiers ended
the protests in Tiananmen Square, in China’s capital of Beijing. The attack left many
people dead, and pro-democracy activists were arrested later and sentenced to death.
George Bush began the Persian Gulf War with a coalition against Saddam Hussein
for the invasion of Kuwait. Bush lost the 1992 election due to a dropping
economy and his “read my lips” tax statement.

Bill Clinton sent troops into Bosnia and Kosovo to prevent genocide in the
Clinton tried and failed to institute a Health Care Plan for the US. The economy
improved and a surplus was established, paying off some of the national debt.
He and the Republican Congress, led by Newt Gingrich, reached a stalemate on
several economic issues and effectively shut the government down. Clinton
became the second US President to be impeached (innocent verdict) over lying
to Congress about the Monica Lewinsky incident. Also impeached for
obstruction of justice.


In 1946, the world’s first electronic digital computer, called ENIAC was created.
Weighing over 30 tons, the machine took up as much floor space as a medium-sized
house. The development of integrated circuits and microprocessors led to the
development of the Personal Computer in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Digital
electronics made worldwide communications possible with the creation of the Internet,
a global information system. The roots of this networking system began with the U.S.
Defense Department’s Advanced Research Project Agency in 1969. Known as
ARPANET, this system linked government agencies, defense contractors, and
scientists at various universities. The use of the Internet expanded by almost 300%
between 1977 and 2000. The Internet also created a “dot.com” economy selling
products and advertising online. Computer networks could link employees within an
office or branch regardless of distance. By the late 1990s, many workers used a home
computer and electronic mail to “telecommute” - do their jobs at home via their
computer. Computer technology and the Internet helped to create a global economy.
Several new trading regions, or blocs, were formed partly in response to the new
possibilities created by computer technologies. (1) In 1994, NAFTA (North American
Free Trade Agreement) was created to increase international trade between the U.S.,
Canada, and Mexico. (2) In 1993, the European Union (EU) was created to promote
economic and political cooperation among European nations. The EU formed a
common bank and a common currency (euro) for member nations, lifting trade barriers
between members and setting import policies for outside countries. (3) The Asia
Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was an attempt to create a Pacific trade
community to rival the EU, however political differences kept its members from working
together. (4) The World Trade Organization (WTO) administered international trade
agreements and helped settle trade disputes.


George Bush defeated Al Gore in the disputed presidential election of 2000. The
Supreme Court essentially decided that a recount would not take place in

The attack on America September 11th, 2001 led to American involvement in
Afghanistan in an attempt to root and defeat the terrorists who committed this and
similar acts. Underlying the anger of Muslim fundamentalists is a long list of
grievances against the U.S. and other Western Nations: (1) U.S. investment in
oil-rich countries; (2) spread of Western ideas; (3) American support of Israel;
(4) American Cold War activities in the Middle East. Muslim fundamentalists
seek a return to traditional Muslim religious laws, a strict interpretation of the
Quran, and the overthrow of pro-Western governments in the Middle East.
The United States, under George Bush, invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein.
This war continues after 5 years.