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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/198

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

morally synchronous. But that is emphatically not the present condition. The period of transition has made it necessary to shorten the pendulum of representative government to make it move as fast as the people wish it to go. The voters have repeatedly tried to set the clock forward by electing new men to office, but the new men after election soon fell into the old swing. Direct legislation seems to be the only way to keep those elected to represent the present from falling into the practises of those who represented the past. Its strength as a political issue lies here. Its function will doubtless be temporary. When it has done its work, it will have made government really representative again and itself doubtless fall into disuse.

Looking at the initiative and referendum thus in the best light leaves one, however, with a decided feeling that the agitation for them is pretty much a "talking point" in the process of developing public interest in changing the methods of public business, very serviceable, of course, to the candidates who are conspicuously eager to "trust the people." As a matter of fact, direct legislation to be successful, will need keen and intelligent public interest. Such an interest would result in a wiser choice of more responsive representatives and accomplish the same results with less strain on the electorate. The disinterested advocates of changes in the mechanism of government in this case are overemphasizing the form to the neglect of the spirit. The new attitude of the public mind will soon be sufficiently strong to secure complete expression in government with or without the aid or hindrance of direct legislation.

No one may expect the new weapons to destroy quickly the old institutions that have become abuses. They are too well rooted to die without a struggle: but in time they will die. There is no longer that upon which they can live.