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There is nothing to prevent the presence of conflicting bills on the same ballot, and no sufficient means of warning the voters that they do conflict. How can anyone expect a real public opinion to be formed, not by the growing need and natural interest of the people, but at the sudden compulsion of some group?"
“No sufficient evidence has appeared of any real popular demand for this measure. The votes which have been taken on the question in recent years in this state are neither impressive nor conclusive. The vote for the election of members of this convention is in
conclusive. The hearings before this committee presented no evidence of such a demand. The largest attendance at any hearing (and that the first) did not exceed 25 persons, and the attendance dwindled until not more than a handful of persons, long-time advocates of the measure, were present. On no occasion was there any demonstration of public interest; the public did
not by letters or otherwise communicate to the committee its desires or demands; the general newspaper press did not present to a great reading constituency detailed and reasoned views in favor of the measure, nor give any evidence of widespread interest on the part of their readers. That the amount of popular demand can be clearly estimated from these facts we do not for a moment contend. But it is plain to us that no advocate of this measure is warranted in urging it upon the convention on the ground that there is a clear popular understanding of its meaning and demand for its adoption."
We quote also the following passages from a very able address delivered to the convention in the course of the closing debate on the subject: "The initiative and referendum is either a passing political craze which will have its day and disappear, like know-nothingism and populism, the greenback and free silver, or it is the beginning of the end of representative government. If it is the former, its adoption here will do nothing but discredit Massachusetts as betrayed into a departure from her accustomed good sense and political sagacity. If it is the latter, it is the first step toward superseding our present system of representative government by unrestrained democracy. It is not a new piece of machinery for representative government, but a new method of government, and two systems so repugnant to each other cannot permanently stand together. The scheme is yet in the experimental stage. It has never been tried under conditions bearing any re
semblance to ours in Massachusetts.
Unrestrained democracy has destroyed every state in the history of the world that tried to stand upon it, and no form of democracy ever gave promise of permanent survival until the people found out that they cannot trust themselves without the checks of the representative system. If there are those who believe that the republican experiment is finally established, they are mistaken. Every student of history knows, and every man of common intelligence can see, that the difficulty of maintaining free institutions increases with congestion of population and the increasing complexity of social and
economic conditions. Our government has never been secure, and it was never more insecure than it is today. We are approaching, if we we have reached, our time of trial. mate effect, if not the object of the initiative and referendum, say what you will, is to enable a majority at the polls to appropriate the property of those who have it to the use of those who want it. With this weapon in their hands they can do that or can do anything. It commands all the rest. To put the unrestrained control of property rights into the hands of the majority, taken as they come, is too much for human nature. If the average man is told that he can have what he wants by voting it, he will vote it, be the consequences what they may. We are in the throes of a world-wide socialistic agitation which aims to unsettle and ultimately to break down the security of property, on the way to the universal equality which can be reached only by pulling down the prudent and industrious to the level of the thriftless and improvident. We are in the con
vulsions of a world war, under which all political conditions are in ferment and upheaval. Even as we speak, events of sinister significance are occurring day by day, both in Europe and in our own country. We cannot forecast the conditions that may confront us before the war is over or when it is over. We are now unavoidably entangled in the new peril of militarism, which this is neither the time nor the place to discuss. I make no predictions and do not mean to magnify any apprehensions, but let no member of this convention deceive himself with the idea that we can adopt this scheme, if it is anything but a passing absurdity, and keep the substance of representative government or the safeguards on which we have grown to depend. We must all agree that it is not the part of wisdom to try unnecessary experiments, even under the most favorable conditions, upon our political institutions. The present is not the time, nor Massachusetts the place, for such an experiment as this."
Commission Government for States
Among the men who have written. and spoken much on the problems of government in late years, some have looked on the city as a diminutive state, while others have seen in the state a magnified city. The latter, claiming and no doubt believing that the commission form of government as applied to cities has been an unqualified success (though it may not be altogether necessary to concede this, seeing that
not a few cities which have given the plan a thorough trial have abandoned it and returned with thankfulness to the old-fashioned methods), have asked why it should not be equally effective and beneficial if applied to states. Numerous plans have been proposed, all involving a more or less complete replacement of existing forms of government in the states. Some would retain both houses of the legislature,
but would reduce the senate to a very small body, having more to do with the administration of the state's affairs than with the making of the laws. Others would retain only the lower house, to serve as a popular legislative assembly. Still others, averring that municipal councils have been advantageously cast into the discard, are inclined to think that all state legislatures might as well be treated in the same way. All of them agree, however, that the actual administration of government in all its details should be placed in the hands of a small committee or cabinet, consisting of the heads of various departments.
And this is not all abstract theorizing or mere advice. Proposals have taken concrete form, and have received very serious attention. In 1913 the voters of Oregon were called upon to decide upon the adoption or rejection of an amendment to their constitution, placed upon the ballot by means of an initiative petition, one of the important features of which was the abolition of the state senate. It was rejected, but nearly a third of the total vote was cast in its favor. In the following year, the governor of Minnesota urged consideration of a plan to abolish the state legislature and substitute for it a small body of elected commissioners. In 1915, the governor of Kansas very strongly recommended the reconstruction of the state government by reducing the legislature to a single chamber which should consist of sixteen members only. Similar plans have also been advocated in the conferences of the state governors. It might have been expected that propositions involving so
violent a change in our ancient institutions would be received with ridicule in some quarters, with strong opposition in others. But on the contrary, these plans have generally been hailed with enthusiasm. Conservative sentiment has been mute or nearly so. The reason is that it is nowadays the fashion to worship whatever smacks of "efficiency." The danger of substituting a bureaucratic administration for a popular government must not stand in the way of business.
The most extreme example of these plans for the renovation of state governments (in the sacred name of efficiency) is that put forward by an anonymous writer in the periodical called "Equity" for July, 1917, who has addressed an open letter to the members of the Massachusetts constitutional convention, proposing a plan of government for that ancient commonwealth, which must have stupefied some of the delegates (if they read the article) and incited others to unseemly mirth.
The matter would not be worthy of serious consideration, save that it shows how far away some of our people have drifted from the old ideals of personal freedom under representative government. "It is proposed." says this advocate of efficiency, "that you will so word the first chapter of the new constitution of Massachusetts as to place the whole responsibility and power of the state government, legislative, administrative, and judicial, in the hands of a single body of officials to be known as Commissioners of State, who shall be elected on the principle of proportional representation for terms of four years, but that the peo
ple shall reserve to themselves full power of control by means of the initiative, referendum, and recall. The number of commissioners shall be sufficiently small not to be unwieldly." Seventeen is suggested as a suitable number. "It is proposed further that this elected governing body shall be authorized to select an official to be known as the State Administrator, a person known to possess expert abilities and to have special training and experience for this post. This official might or might not be a resident of the state at the time of his selection. The State Administrator should have an indeterminate tenure of office, subject at all times to removal by the commissioners by majority vote. For his actions the State Administrator would be responsible directly to the Commissioners of State." "It is proposed further that the said State Administrator shall be empowered to appoint the heads of such departments as the commission may create. We here suggest, though not dogmatically, the following five: Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance, Minister of Industry, Minister of Interior, and Minister of Education. Under these five ministries all of the necessary work of the state administration would be organized and conducted." The system in operation is described with enthusiasm. The Minister of Justice, for example, "would be a lawyer with high administrative abilities. He would co-ordinate all the courts throughout the state. He would have such appointing power as the State Commission would give him. He would perhaps appoint the Attorney General, and he would co-ordinate the
work of the county prosecuting attorneys throughout the state. Ways would be found to tie up with municipal administration of justice, helpfully to both state and city administration. The state supreme court would be an elastic institution. The businesslike Minister of Justice would so reform court procedure as to make justice direct and prompt, and he would not tolerate technical subversions of justice in any state court. *
* With such machin
ery of justice, but few appeals would be made to the supreme court, which need have no permanent existence, but be called into existence by the Minister of Justice only upon occasion."
Here we see the principle of centralization carried to its last, yet most inexorably logical, extreme. the idiom of the street, this is concentration with a vengeance. Having first made secure the ineffable blessings of the initiative, the referendum, and the recall, it seems that all that is needed for the democratic government of a commonwealth is an imported state administrator untiringly "on the job," an industrious coterie of officials exercising their combined legislative, administrative, and judicial prerogative, a businesslike Minister of Justice sternly vigilant against subversions, and an elastic and discontinuous supreme court. One can fancy that after about one year the chief occupation of the citizens would be circulating and signing recall petitions, or else emigrating to some other state where the courts were frequently in session. And, incidentally speaking, nearly all the administration of a city is business, and nearly all the administration of a state is not.
Important Articles in Current Magazines
"Ideals of Democracy in
Whether democracy is regarded as a particular kind of political organization or as a social atmosphere, or both, the institution may be said to exist where social action is based upon the fundamental common qualities of all men and women, though it does not involve the denial of differences in genius or character. "But democracy is nowhere achieved, since nearly all our inherited social structure is based upon the subordination of a common humanity to the differences within the group. Democracy therefore remains an unachieved ideal, and those who work for or hope for democracy aim in every country at emphasizing the importance of the human being, however foolish or incompetent." Thus prefacing a Thus prefacing a very interesting study of the "Ideals of Democracy in England," in the International Journal of Ethics for July, 1917, the author, Mr. C. Delisle Burns, of London, points out that any judgment of the aspirations or tendencies of democratic feeling in that country must not be based on what is said and written and done in London alone. "The vigor of social idealism is in the Midlands and in the north of England; and an analysis of English tendencies towards democracy must be based upon experience and understanding of Manchester and Bradford and Newcastle. For in the first place the social ideals of Brighton or of three-quarters of London are anti-democratic; or if they are called democratic, it is the democ
racy hoped for by officials. And if London were England there is little doubt that we should soon have established an absolute bureaucracy, dominating a subservient and even an admiring populace, with the assistance of an inconsequent and ignorant literary clique." The basis of English democratic ideals is respect and admiration for persons who work, and whose work is not for their own selfish desires, but of a nature to be useful to others. It is upon those who thus work, and who share this sentiment, that the future of England will depend. For "whether gentlemen or not, those who are vacant of any purpose will have comparatively little effect upon succeeding generations, and the only vigorous feeling in England seems to be in the direction of democracy. The common man is not ashamed of his position, and he increasingly expects to be treated as though his humanity were more important than his income or his relatives." Democracy no longer implies a sullen hostility to wealth or rank. There is no particular prejudice against differences of income, if only a man will play his part and pay his share. But the strength of the movement lies between the two extremes, because the very rich do not feel their dependence upon their fellow-men, and the very poor have no time or energy to work for anything but a bare living. The ideal of English democracy is a state of society "in which there are none so rich as to be enforced idlers and none so poor as to be only workers." The