Open main menu

Page:Oregon Historical Quarterly volume 12.djvu/272

This page needs to be proofread.


OREGON HISTORY FOR "THE OREGON SYSTEM" y F. G. Young "The Oregon System" is a new and unique organization for the determination of public policy in the affairs of a com- monwealth. It is being more and more freely used, and prom- ises in Oregon to reduce to a minimum the functioning of the historic representative government. The people not only rule but their rule is direct, summary, absolute and affects well- nigh all their public interests. In law-making deference to the specialist, the experienced and the expert is at a low ebb. The supposed virtues of the deliberative assembly with parliament- ary procedure come dangerously near being repudiated alto- gether. This tendency of almost exclusive reliance upon the "system" means immediate and definitive action by popular vote on all matters of commonwealth interest. This direct responsibility assumed by the people for the detailed control of their public affairs involves an ambitious role. The elevation of the voter to the position of law-maker and judge affecting highest matters of state must, in the nature of things, if all is to be well, be paralleled by a cor- responding enlargement of his understanding, enlightenment of his views and ennoblement of his attitude. How is he to be made equal to this new sphere that he has assumed ? Trip-hammer action of public opinion is secured through the initiative, referendum and recall, in the easy and absolute form of their application in Oregon. Vox populi, vox Dei is here adopted as an inherent principle of the eternal order and is being applied without reservation. The situation brings all our social heritage into the crucible, subject to complete trans- formation on any election day. Democracy has thus been made absolute and the machinery for registering its edicts simplified to the last degree. Under such a regime, unless there is a corresponding response in effort and attitude on the part of the individual voter, only inspiration can save from serious, cumulative and consequently fatal blunders. How can