Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/611

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A PROGRAM OF RADICAL DEMOCRACY

2. Personal liberty and local government. The liberty of the individual should be limited only when it interferes with the liberty or the rights of others. The man who has smallpox must be isolated; one who mistreats his children must be imprisoned; the owner of an automobile, the upkeep of which costs more than the support of an average family, should be taxed; because each of them would otherwise interfere with the welfare of others. But legislation to suppress unobtrusive vice, to keep people married who want to separate, to prevent polygamy, and the like, is of doubtful value. The national congress should not do what state legislatures can do equally well, or the state legislature interfere with local government. The inequality and artificial boundaries of the states, the disastrous growth of cities, the heterogeneous and changing population, are among the conditions which make local government difficult. But the nation should not lord it over the states, the state over the county or city, the county or city over its local units, these over the group or family, the group or family over the individual.

3. The abolition or the limitation of the powers of the constitution of the United States, of the president, of the senate and of the supreme court. Similar limitations in state governments. The national government being historically a federation of states may need some constitution, but it does not need much of one or one very much. It would be entirely safe for the congress to decide what the nation shall do and what shall be left to the separate states. Great Britain is better off without a written constitution. The scheme of checks and balances is wrong in theory and bad in practise. Men will nearly always rise to the level of the responsibility put on them. The existing lack of responsibility demoralizes the legislature; placing responsibility on the individual autocrat makes, as a rule, a good autocrat; but that is not what democracy wants. The president should be only the executive officer of the congress. The senate is a superfluous nuisance. A supreme court may be needed to decide what the congress intended when it enacted a law, but it is not there to play with the meaning of words or to interfere with legislation. Every outworn constitution and law, every perpetual franchise and charter, should be scrapped. The dead can not be permitted to rule the living.

4. Government and all its functions to be executed by those most fit, selected by and responsible to the people. Political democracy does not mean government by the uninformed, but by those best able to serve the people. Delegated and expert government is necessary; it is clearly impossible for the people to consider all the minor measures that must be enacted and all the minor officers that must be selected. The proper condition seems to be for those of a neighborhood to select the men in whom they have from personal acquaintance the most confidence, these