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Full text of "The failure of democracy / Bruce H. Burnside"

The Fpilure Of Democrrcs'" 



Bruce H. Bumside 
January 3, 1943 



The present world crisis ha a again brought up the question of the 
efficiency of democracy. In any discussion of the condition of the govern- 
ment of this country , the increasing number of wepknessea can not possibly 
be ignored. Theae defects are found in local, st?te, rnd nations! govern- 
ment. 

Cities with crowded tenement districts offer rich prizes for "boss 
rule", 3y doing favors and generally looking pftrr the voters ell yerr 
around, the machine can count on them to vote cs they ere instructed. 
Although some of these bosses -wind up in /leptre/; for not filing an income 
tax, there pre still e few in operation. 

In state government, there are weaknesses in f11 three branches. In 
the executive branch, the unfortunate governor is held responsible for the 
condition of the state when he cen do relatively nothing to better it. Hie 
power is strictly limited. He can only fdvise the many boprds, commissions, 
end agencies but do nothing to enforce this opinion, /bout half th* 3 states 
hpve revised this system in the lpst twenty-five ye^rs, but. there is still 
room for improvement. In the legislatures, the salaries ?re so low that 
good talent is not attracted. It is not worth while for a man to leave his 
business for threp months every year or so and journey to the state capital 
to earn three dollars p dry. Hence, many of those elected to this office 
are not really suitable material. The judicial branch is renowned for its 
delay. Some time ago two young Tien spent one hundred and s^ven days in an 
Mn .Arbor jail, awaiting trial for simple larceny, and were finally con- 
victed and sentenced to the maximum penalty of ninety days. Thereupon the 

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judge credited them 'vith seventeen days apiece on the next sentence they 
might receive. ■*■ Such happenings ere not typical, but they occur frequently 
enough to crept e a serious problem. 

In spite of all precautions in voting, ballot boxes are still stuffed 
and primaries raided. Lobbyists hold forth noisily in the state capitals; 
some pry good money to insure the "Mlling" of a bill detrimental to the 
interests of their employers. A mild type of the spoils system is in 
ef'ect in many states in spite of "competent" civil service, commissions. 
In the District of Columbia, nearly three quarters of a million people 
have no vote. In this respect, they are on a par with criminals, aliens, 
children, and insane people. 

The nstionel government is guilty of too much centralization; it hsfi 
power over railroads, big busin ss, radio, ?ir traffic, ships, an:i public 
utilities— to mention only e few. In the last quarter of a century, the 
tendency has been to create an agency to oversee alrnoat every npr burineas 
that springs up. The more government we have, the less freedom remains. 
Certain weaknesses might call for government aid, but not domination. Of 
course, in time of war, tighter control by the federal government is quite 
a necessity. The majority of the people "n.11 argue: "We don't want a 
dictator; "e went freedom." However, they do not take en active part in 
their government by going +o the polls on election day. In thF 194.0 
presidential election, only sixty-two per cent of the eligible voters 



1 Macdonrld, /ustin F. American St' te Government /nd Administration. 
New York City, 1940. p. ?37. 



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erst their ballot s. If one-fourth of those non-votere hr^i hpd enough 
energy to indicate their choice rt the voting-plpce, the election might 
hfve gone the othrr way. If there uninterested Individu* Is vjould take 
the trouble to study conditions in this country pnd indicate their opinions 
on p brllot, it -voul-5 go r Ion tov;rrdt correcting som^ of the govern- 

ments! difficulties confronting the Onited States todry. 



? Ogg, Frederic A, md Rpy, P. Orm-n. Introduction To /jierlcF.n 
Government . 7th ed. Dew lork City, 1942. p. 17^. 



Bibliography 

Mrcdoneld, Austin F. /jnf.riorn St rte Government rnd /droinirtrgt ion. 

Bew York City, 1940. 
Ogg, Frederic /. and Bey, P. OrrtiFn. Introduction To /-qericpn 

Government. 7th ed. New York City, 19A2. 
Kolcombe, />mbro5e N. £tfte Government In Thp [Jnjted States. 

3rd ed. New York City, 1931. 
Lipson, Leslie, /mericpn Governor From Figurrherd To Letter. 

Chicfgo, 19?9.