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-
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
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.
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^.
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.