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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/140

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

widespread and increasing demoralization in American political life, and, where others who have as keenly felt the evil have contented themselves with vague utterances, he proposes a definite scheme of action. The impatience with party methods and party dictation, which is now so evident among thinking men, has not generally gone to the length of questioning the utility or necessity of such organizations. Parties are held, by even those most energetic in their opposition to their present tendencies and methods, to have a legitimate function in a free state. It is only their abuse that there is need to war against. Rightly limited, they are the sole means of giving effective expression to the popular will, and for carrying out lines of national policy. Emancipated from the control of the self seeking classes, they are the most efficient agents of the control of the affairs of government by the people, and the problem of our politics is to get their management into proper hands. This opinion Mr. Stickney denies outright. Parties, in the sense of vast permanent organizations, are to him wholly an abomination. They do not now aid, and never have aided, in furthering calm political discussion, or in carrying measures of real value to the people. They are now, and always have been, organizations for the carrying of elections. The great questions of the hour have indeed been used by them as their battle-cries, but the contest has always been for the places of honor and profit. They have pushed these questions to issue only to the extent demanded by their needs; the real interests of the people have always been made subservient to their triumph. Wise legislation is the outcome of deliberation, of a careful consideration of the real merits of the questions involved. It needs honesty of purpose and harmony of spirit. But the very essence of party is strife. Warring factions, jealous of any possible advantage that one side may gain over another, perpetually prevent all harmony of action between those holding by different parties. The action of legislators, elected to conserve the interests of the whole people, is determined almost solely by party considerations. The division of votes on most questions is along strictly party lines. As a means of affording discussion of the merits of the men and measures presented for popular suffrage, they are worse than useless. The candidates are all chosen by the managers, and the people have only the choice of ratifying at the polls the selections of the caucus. These are not accidental but inherent features of the party system. They are bad enough, but they are but a part of the evils due to it. The feature that makes improvement hopeless, and that paralyzes all attempts to reform within party lines, is the influence that the system inevitably exerts over our public men. In it is to be found the cause of the progressive corruption of public servants. Not only does it offer the opportunity for public servants to do their work ill, but, more than that, it compels them to do it so. Their continuance in office is dependent upon their party carrying the next election. They are therefore forced to devote their time and energies to keeping their places. They can not, therefore, give their attention to the proper work of their offices. More than this, they must of necessity administer these offices, not with an eye to the public good, but to the best advantage of their party. The system, therefore, makes it certain that the public will neither get good service from the men in office, nor get the best men to do Government work. These results are not peculiar to America. They have followed wherever tenure of office has been made to depend, not upon the faithful performance of duties, but upon political success. Men will always, at all times and places, give their best work to that upon which their preferment depends. If in this country party control has gone to greater lengths than in other countries, and not only the elective, but all offices, have come to be the prey of party faction, it is because the opportunities have been greater. Our frequent elections make possible the profession of the politician. Every few years a chance of a change in party control of the Government gives a promise of vacancy in great numbers of offices. Men, therefore, temporarily out of office can wait for one of these recurring opportunities. Mr. Stickney reviews English and American history in support of his position. He finds that security of tenure and official purity have