From Governors to Grocers: How Profiteering Changed English-Canadian Perspectives of Liberalism in the Great War of 1914-1918

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Date
2013-09-20
Authors
Targa, Ryan
Keyword
Food Controller , World War One , Military Contracts , Scandals , 1914-1918 , Inflation , Profit , Liberalism , Patronage , Corruption , Profiteers , Profiteer , Conscription , Big Interests , Income Tax , Great War , Income War Tax , Business Profits War Tax , Liberal Order , Taxation , Conscription of Wealth , Combines , Graft , Jobbery , First World War , English Canada , Patriotism , Working Class , Equality , Equality of Sacrifice , Regulation , Shell Committee , Imperial Munitions Board , Profiteering , Liberal , Trusts , Great War Veterans Association , laissez-faire , Democracy , Board of Commerce , Canada , Food Board
Abstract
The war against Germany was perceived by the majority of English Canadians as a necessity to defend the British Empire, democracy and justice. However, it became increasingly evident to the public that some individuals were being permitted to prosper, while others — particularly those of the working class — endured immense hardship. These individuals who prospered at a level judged excessive became known as "profiteers." Initial criticisms of profiteering were connected to graft, jobbery and patronage apparent in government military purchases. However, as public sacrifices intensified, the morally acceptable extent to which individuals and businesses could profit came to be more narrowly defined. Criticisms of profiteering expanded to challenge the mainstream liberal notions of private wealth and laissez-faire policies as being inequitable and undemocratic. The federal government's unwillingness to seriously implement measures against profiteering led to rising discontent. Consequently, working-class English Canadians aspired to form a 'new democracy' that was worth the sacrifices of the war.
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