« ForrigeFortsett »
Governor, or President we are sure to secure a presentable figure, always honest and frequently an able and independent champion of the people against the very political interests that nominated him. We are apt to re-elect such men, and the way we sweep aside hostile politicians where the issue is clear shows how powerfully the tide of our American spirit sets toward good government when the intelligence of the community finds a channel-witness Roosevelt, Taft, Hughes, Deneen, Folk, and a host of mayors.
In an obscure contest on the blind end of the ballot, merit has little political value; but in the conspicuous contests, where we actually compare man and man, superior merit in a nominee is a definite political asset. Hence, in the case of an obscure nomination, the tendency is automatically downward; but in a conspicuous nomination (where all the voting is intelligent) the tendency is upward.
We cannot hope to raise the political intelligence of our citizenship to a level where it will scrutinize the long ballot and cease to vote blindly on most of it. The mountain will not come to Mahomet; Mahomet then must go to the mountain. We must shorten the ballot to a point where the average man will vote intelligently without giving to politics more attention than he does at present. That means making it very short, for if it exceeds by even a little the retentive capacity of the average voter's memory, the "political specialist" is created. A voter could remember the relative merits of probably about five sets of candidates, and could keep that many separate contests clear in his mind, but he would probably begin to vote blindly on more than five. Also we must take all unimportant offices off the ballot, since the electorate will not bother with such trifles whether the ballot be short or not. Why, indeed, should fifty thousand voters all be asked to pause for even a few minutes apiece to study the relative qualifications of Smith and Jones for the petty post of County Surveyor? An intelligent citizen may properly have bigger business!
To be pictorial, let us see how a revised schedule of elec
tions might look if we put into the realm of appointive offices as many as possible of those which we now ignore. All county offices, many city positions, and the tail of the State ticket would thus be disposed of, and the ballots might look somewhat like this (New York State titles):
This is merely organizing the State and city as simply as the Federal Government. There is endless room for discussion on the details, and many other arrangements could be devised. This schedule provides for every office which must be kept within the realm of politics. It provides short ballots which every man would vote intelligently without calling on a political specialist to come and guide his pencil.
On such a short ballot basis the entry of our best men into public life becomes possible. To-day the retired business man, for instance, who is willing to devote his trained mind and proven executive ability to the service of his city finds it difficult to enter public life even as a humble alderman. He cannot win as an independent, for the voters do not distinguish his voice in the political hubbub. He must get his name on the ticket of the dominant party, which can elect him regardless of whether he makes a fierce campaign or remains silent on every issue. In seeking this nomination, direct primaries will help him a little, but in the confusion attending the making of nominations for a multitude of offices he is again unable to attract much attention, and the "machine" swinging its solid blocks of well-drilled voters to the support of some loyal old-time pillar of the "organization," is likely to defeat him despite his manifest superiority of
character. His only hopeful resort is to go down into the unfamiliar and uncongenial shaded underworld of ward politics, kotow to district leaders and captains whose social and business standing is perhaps inferior to his own, and satisfy their queries, "What have you done for the party?" and "What will you do for us?" Such procedure being at least distasteful and probably stultifying, his activities turn toward philanthropies and recreations. The city has thus refused his proffered services, has turned away the man who considered the office as an opening for civic usefulness in favor of one who probably wanted it as a good job.
But if he be conspicuous as an important and almost solitary figure before his prospective constituents, such a candidate can easily get a satisfactory hearing, and his superior merit will be an all-important asset to him. In such a simple situation the "ward politician" has no function. Every ordinary voter is a complete politician too. The party bosslet who prates of "regularity" will find the voter replying with facts regarding the personality and principles of the candidate, and the discussion shifts to a new level. If the politician can win over the voter on that level well and good. That is leadership, not bossism, and is unobjectionable.
1-State Party Organization, Macy, J., Party Organization and Machinery, 96–110.
2-The National Committee, Ibid., 65-86.
3-Participation of the People in City Government, Goodnow,
F. J., City Government in the United States, 109–36. 4-The Nominating Convention at Work, Bryce, J., American Commonwealth, II, 185-202.
5-Practical Working of the Direct Primary System, Merriam, C. E., Primary Elections, 117-132.
6-Are too Many Executive Offices Elective, Thompson, M. B., Michigan Law Review, VI, 228-36.
7-Presidential Leadership, Macy, J., Party Organization and Machinery, 25–42.
THE FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT
INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM AND LAW
75. PERSONAL LIBERTY VS. GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITY.
Constitutional government implies that a certain limit be set to the interference by the government with the personal freedom of the individual. Of course there must be some interference by the government with what the individual may regard as his personal liberty or there could be no government; but it is equally manifest that there must be some fixed and positive limit to this interference else there is no personal freedom-no constitutional government. Where shall this limit be fixed? What are the functions which the government must exercise in order to maintain its existence, and what are the powers from which the government must hold its hand in order that the freedom of the individual be not destroyed? John Stuart Mill in his Essay on Liberty, written some fifty years ago, is the champion of the liberty of the individual:
The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar, particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this contest was between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the government. By liberty, was meant protection against the tyranny of the political rulers. The rulers were conceived (except in some of the popular governments of Greece) as in a necessarily antagonistic position to the people whom they ruled. They consisted of a governing One, or a governing tribe or caste, who de
rived their authority from inheritance or conquest; who, at all events, did not hold it at the pleasure of the governed, and whose supremacy men did not venture, perhaps did not desire, to contest, whatever precautions might be taken against its oppressive exercise. Their power was regarded as necessary, but also as highly dangerous; as a weapon which they would attempt to use against their subjects, no less than against external enemies. To prevent the weaker members of the community from being preyed upon by innumerable vultures, it was needful that there should be an animal of prey stronger than the rest, commissioned to keep them down. But as the king of the vultures would be no less bent upon preying on the flock than any of the minor harpies, it was indispensable to be in a perpetual attitude of defence against his beak and claws. The aim, therefore, of patriots, was to set limits to the power which the ruler should be suffered to exercise over the community; and this limitation was what they meant by liberty. It was attempted in two ways. First, by obtaining a recognition of certain immunities, called political liberties or rights, which it was to be regarded as a breach of duty in the ruler to infringe, and which, if he did infringe, specific resistance, or general rebellion, was held to be justifiable. A second, and generally a later expedient was the establishment of constitutional checks; by which the consent of the community, or of a body of some sort supposed to represent its interests, was made a necessary condition to some of the more important acts of the governing power. To the first of these modes of limitation, the ruling power, in most European countries, was compelled, more or less, to submit. It was not so with the second; and to attain this, or when already in some degree possessed, to attain it more completely, became everywhere the principal object of the lovers of liberty. And so long as mankind were content to combat one enemy by another, and to be ruled by a master, on condition of being guaranteed more or less efficaciously against his tyranny, they did not carry their aspirations beyond this point.