Popular Science Monthly/Volume 86/March 1915/Social Legislation on the Pacific Coast
|SOCIAL LEGISLATION ON THE PACIFIC COAST|
THE Pacific coast states represent a future empire. Nature has marked them off by natural barriers and by climate more distinctly than any other division of the United States. This fact so impressed the distinguished author of the “American Commonwealth” that he speculated upon the development of a Pacific coast type of the human race and pointed out that this region might quite naturally have been the home of a separate nation. Oregon, Washington and California are equivalent in area to France and the British Isles. Their population, however, is only four and a half million, while the population of France and the British Isles is eighty-five million. It can not safely be predicted that these far western states will ultimately hold so dense a population as these European nations; yet, undoubtedly, the future will see an immense population dwelling in these new states. The opening of the Panama Canal has most dramatically forced this fact on the attention of present inhabitants of the Pacific Coast.
Here, then, an empire is being built. To the student of science it suggests several questions. How can a state be scientifically built? What principles do the researches of political science yield? Should state-makers use the experimental method? Will a democracy, in which the common people rule, be sufficiently far-sighted and capable to utilize scientific principles in building their future state? These questions arise when one studies the experiences of the Pacific coast states in state-making. It is the purpose of this paper to present theof empire-building in Washington, Oregon and California as seen through their treatment of social problems. Before such a presentation is made, the viewpoints suggested by these questions need some elaboration.
The first question is: How does political science say a state should be scientifically built? Can a state be built as scientifically as an engineer spans the East River with a suspension bridge? Political science is not as exact a science as engineering, yet it has developed sufficiently to speak definitely about the making of states. The contributions of this science to state-craft may be referred to as the theory of the state.
At the time of the declaration of independence by the American colonies, the theory of the state held that the government which governed least governed best. Organized government as then known in Europe had been achieved primarily by the strong man, as typified by the monarch. The monarch had served the very useful purpose of welding heterogenous tribes into a more or less unified whole. Through several centuries of this type of nation-making the peoples finally broke their customs of faction and their tribal habits. They became accustomed to living in the larger nation under a common language and a common law. This type of the strong man’s work was then done. Under the changed circumstances his functioning appeared to the governed as tyrannical. The idea of political liberty grew. Liberty and government seemed to form a paradox. And that government which governed least was believed to govern best.
With a government owned by the people, tyranny and government ceased to be the same thing. Government and liberty were no longer incompatible. But the idea persisted, as is usual in social evolution, long after the conditions which produced the idea had changed. It persisted perhaps somewhat longer in the United States than elsewhere because of the strong individualism developed by a nation of pioneers, conquering the wilderness in small groups with little aid from the government.
Government now appears as collective organized effort. Individuals can do little acting singly, but acting through collective organized effort undreamed-of achievements may be made. The world has hardly begun to see the possibilities of organization. Hence more government is desired. This is particularly true in modern society with its tremendous complexity and heterogeneity. This is the conception of the state from the point of view of government. How is it from the point of view of the individual and liberty? The older notions of liberty meant freedom from an overbearing government, freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness, and especially to own property. Several years of this unrestrained liberty have resulted in liberty for some, but not for others. The socially strong and the lucky have been successful, but with their success the liberties of the socially weak and the unlucky have fared very badly. The liberties of many must therefore be protected by the government. This is what is meant by the term "social justice." Furthermore, with the conception of government as the collective organized effort of all the people, the idea of the common good" is being emphasized more than "individual rights" and the term social freedom is replacing the term "liberty." Therefore, from the point of view of government and of liberty an extension of governmental functions is desired. And the advice of political science on state-building is that modern society demands a government developed beyond the narrow limits of the past to the aims of social justice and collective effort. It will be interesting to observe the developments on the Pacific coast under the light of this new theory of the state.
Perhaps the reader will argue that this new theory is, after all, only a theory and is far from being a law of an exact science. In that case if the new states build on this new theory they will be experimenting—a method which has the high approval of science. It has often been maintained that the experimental method will forever be denied the sociologist. For how can a sociologist experiment with democracy, as, for instance, a physicist experiments in his laboratory with rays of light? It would indeed be a strange discovery, if it were found that the peoples of the Pacific coast showed a willingness to experiment with their governments and were actually doing so.
With some thinkers it is still an open question whether democracy will live. Therefore it may seem absurd to discuss the ability of the common people to build a state scientifically. Empire-builders have formerly been men like Caesar, Napoleon, Bismarck. Can the plain citizen do it? If they can, it means that the masses must not only become aware of scientific progress, but must often be willing to look beyond present needs and strong desires to the far-removed good of a future goal. The first requirement is that they shall benefit from mistakes of the past, as, for instance, the mistakes in the building of the United States. The development of the great American republic has been remarkable, but it has been accomplished at an enormous cost. Natural resources have not been conserved. Social good has been sacrificed for individual gain. And the people are now looking back with regret at the destroyed forests, at the lost water rights, and at the enthronement of special privilege. They see large numbers of their fellow-citizens struggling against an inadequate standard of living and weighted down with poverty and ill-health and unemployment. Will the Pacific coast states benefit by the experience of the United States?
The preceding paragraphs suggest the interpretation of the social order on the Pacific coast as presented in this paper. This social order is both distinctive and novel. To see it is important because it may be a glimpse into the future of forty-five other states. The following pages will present aspects of it as seen through legislative enactments, excellent indexes of the organized efforts of its citizens. For this purpose the social legislation will be classified into four groups: changes in the form of government, labor legislation, legislation affecting women and general welfare legislation.
In governmental changes Oregon is the leader. Her priority in large governmental adaptation has given rise to the term, the Oregon system. And by the Oregon system is meant such a body of laws as the initiative and referendum, the direct primary, the direct election of senators, the recall, the corrupt practices act and the presidential preference primary. Associated with these are woman suffrage, home rule for cities and a constitutional amendment making it possible to adopt proportional representation. The Oregon system sprang from the corruption of the nineties. The people were dissatisfied with their state legislature, and with cause. They decided to make some of the laws themselves and to have the right of rejecting any of the legislature’s enactments which they chose. The initiative and referendum, making these achievements possible, were adopted in 1902. South Dakota and Utah had previously passed constitutional amendments making the initiative and referendum possible, but seem to have made little use of them. California began popular lawmaking in 1911, and Washington in 1912. Following Oregon’s example, there are now nineteen states that practise direct legislation.
Oregon citizens have voted in seven elections, extending over a dozen years, on one hundred and thirty-six measures, adopting fifty-one and rejecting eighty-five. The fifty measures adopted include all the above mentioned laws of the Oregon system and, in addition, prohibition, employer’s liability, three-fourths verdict in civil cases, eight hour law on public works, and the abolition of capital punishment.
All the laws so far mentioned were proposed by the people themselves through the initiative and not by the state legislature, as indeed are nearly all the measures which are voted on by the people. Among the eighty-five measures rejected are a state income tax, several single tax measures, measures making it possible to abandon the general property tax, prohibition, woman suffrage, eight hour law for women, universal eight hour law, measures providing wholesale changes in the state constitution, proportional representation, and the abolition of the senate.
Some results of Oregon’s experiment in direct legislation are the following. A body of excellent laws have been passed with surprisingly few mistakes. Some good measures have been defeated—also several radical measures and a number of measures of minor importance. The people are conservative as well as progressive. For the education of voters the initiative and referendum are unsurpassed. The voters take a good deal of interest in lawmaking, watching the ballot carefully for jokers and private motives. Seventy-five per cent. of those who vote, vote on the measures. All classes of citizens initiate laws. The voters amend their constitution as readily as they pass bills. The tendency is to place a larger number of measures on the ballot. The efficiency of representative legislatures seems not to have suffered, but perhaps to have gained.
The first law passed by the initiative in Oregon was the direct primary law. The direct primary, by permitting voters to vote directly for nominations, has done more than any other device to break the grip of machine politics and to restore control to the people. Oregon was the second state to adopt the direct primary; Wisconsin, in 1903, preceded Oregon by one year. Washington followed in 1907 and California in 1909. Now there are thirty-two states possessing it, not counting the southern states that have long had the white primary. The effect of direct nominations has been to loosen party ties. Perhaps other governmental agencies have assisted, but at any rate, party ties bind very lightly on the Pacific coast. Some careful observers think that the direct primary has finished its work in Oregon and that it has left an expensive and troublesome double elective system. Hence Portland, Oregon, is found by 1913 adopting a non-party preferential system of voting that necessitates only one election and provides approximately majority rule by the counting of second and third choice votes. Washington also has a preferential system for state elections. The system is somewhat technical, but seems to have produced excellent results in the few elections in which it has been tried.
In the Oregon direct-primary law was found a curious clause known as "Statement No. 1." The operation of "Statement No. 1" resulted in the direct election of United States senators without the adoption of a constitutional amendment to that effect. "Statement No. 1" was simply a statement, which might or might not be made by a candidate for the state legislature, to the effect that he would vote in the state legislature for the people's choice for United States senator. The candidate felt that his chances of election were better if he thus pledged himself. Although a majority of the candidates "took" the statement, the fight to make it effective was dramatic. It was so successful, however, that a republican legislature was forced to elect a democrat for senator. Attention is called to "Statement No. 1" because it was a genuine invention, the rarest of phenomena in politics. Other states followed Oregon's example. All such devices lost their force, however, when the constitution of the United States was so amended that senators are no longer elected by the state legislatures, but directly by the people.
Associated in spirit with the initiative and referendum is the recall of public officials at the will of the voters before the expiration of their terms. Oregon adopted the recall in 1908, and was the first state to do so. California followed in 1911 and Washington in 1912. At the present time ten other states have the recall. The recall has precipitated much argument concerning the whims of democracy and mob psychology. However, experience shows that it has not been used very much. The most conspicuous cases are the recalls of a mayor and an occasional councilman. The failure to use it is not due to the number of signatures necessary to put it in operation, but rather to the difficulty in securing an able candidate to run against the recalled official and the fear on the part of the recallers of the wrath of the electorate at the expense of another election. An interesting and much-discussed feature is the recall of judges. Oregon and California permit the recall of judges; but they do not seem disposed to recall them.
In the field of local government the cities have home rule. Formerly the treatment of many strictly city problems was ordered by a state legislature many miles away and composed largely of representatives from rural districts. This led inevitably to the infusion of state and national party issues into city affairs, where they obviously had no place, and to the development of “the systems,” manipulations and patronage. The commission form of government is found in large cities in the three states and there is the local initiative, referendum and recall. One may also see here an example in one of the smaller towns of the city manager plan.
Several changes in governmental procedure have been suggested. Prominent is budget procedure. California, through its state board of control, has taken the lead in budget-making. In 1913 two weeks before the state legislature convened a scientific budget was presented which resulted in a saving, it is claimed, of over $2,000,000. Other states have followed and proposals of budget reform are being made in Washington and Oregon. A consolidation of the various state boards and commissions and a reorganization of the administrative departments on the model of the United States cabinet has been widely favored in Oregon and is expected soon. The program also calls for the short ballot. Oregon has voted, though unsuccessfully, for proportional representation, the abolition of the senate and a union of the legislature and the executive. The future of these latter proposals is uncertain. The record of Oregon, California and Washington in governmental changes has been one of brilliant experiment.
The greatest extension of the functions of government for social freedom is in legislation affecting the wage-earner. Policies of liberty and of individualism have not meant liberty and individuality for the wage-earner. He has been unprotected. He has borne the toll of hazard in industry and often accommodated himself to a standard of living that is far from meeting the requirements of a democracy. The field of labor is the scene of the struggle for social justice. The labor problem and the status of industry are intimately related. Industry in the west has not reached the large development of the eastern states. Hence large and acute labor situations have not given rise in the west to so urgent a need of labor legislation. Furthermore, the Pacific coast is very eager for capital to seek industrial investment within its domains. But labor legislation may raise the cost of production as compared with the competitive industry of other states. Hence care would seem necessary lest industrial development be discouraged. But should industry be purchased at the cost of the welfare of the workers? This is the problem that often confronts the voter. How have the Pacific coast states met this dilemma?
The first modern labor laws protecting the wage-earner were those dealing with child labor. California was one of the first states to provide child-labor legislation. Such legislation was passed in 1889, amended in 1901 and greatly improved in 1907. Washington and Oregon passed excellent laws in 1903. There have been further amendments so that the laws in these three states have a general age-limit of fourteen years, prohibitions of night-work by children, compulsory school attendance and highly important provisions for adequate enforcement. Suggested improvements are to raise the general age-limits and to provide a broader foundation of education through a longer period of compulsory school attendance.
Society is very much interested in the labor laws known as employer’s liability and workmen’s compensation. Modern industry bears only a slight resemblance to the craft and the rural work dealt with by the common law. Modern industry is a huge machine for which there must be workmen. Every year men, like machinery, are cast on the scrap heap. Under the common law there is no adequate financial aid for widow and children or for a dragged-out life as a cripple. California, Washington and Oregon early developed laws making employers financially liable by recourse to the courts to the employees for accidents. But the courts were slow and strange to the workmen; lawyers were expensive, and a thriving insurance consumed funds. Hence workmen’s compensation laws making payments definite and automatic were passed. California passed a workmen’s compensation law in 1911, being the fifth state to put it into effect. Washington passed a similar law the same year, and Oregon also in 1913. At the close of 1914 there are twenty-four states thus protecting workmen. Washington and California compel employers to operate under the law, while Oregon’s law is elective, the alternative being employer’s liability.
Of equal consequence to workmen are occupational diseases, such as anthrax, compressed-air illness and lead poisoning. California in 1911 was the second state to put into effect a law requiring the reporting of occupational diseases, and her law has served as a model for many of the fifteen other states which now make such requirements.
Labor has also been attacking its problems without the aid of legislation, namely, through the labor union. The methods of unions have been severely criticized, perhaps more than their aims. This is to be expected because labor is on the firing line of conflict, that has for its stakes bread and butter and housing. The daily labor of workmen is rough, direct and concrete; the efforts of their organization are of the same nature. The Pacific coast has had its share of labor-union activities. But experience shows that the more completely organized labor is, the less its violence. This is shown by the experience of England, of the excellently organized trainmen and the ill-organized I. W. W. The skilled labor on the Pacific Coast is now well-organized as compared to other states. And in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco, organized labor is a strong force. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at Washington, D. C., show that in general organized labor draws slightly higher wages and works slightly shorter hours here than elsewhere. Similarly, the laws are favorable to organized labor.
The conditions of the unskilled and the unorganized laborers are not so favorable on the Pacific coast. This is partly due to the nature of some of the main industries such as lumbering, wheat harvesting, the raising of fruit and hops, and construction work. These industries are seasonal to a high degree and the jobs last only a short while. This means that the living conditions are of the roughest sort. As the distances are great, the laborers are peculiarly migratory. The railroad tracks are their highways and one may here see at almost any time these migratory workers walking the railroad ties, and always with blankets rolled in bundles on their backs. The blanket pictures symbolically their crude home conditions and social life. These conditions breed the I. W. W. Here is a great need for the state to extend its functions to bring a real liberty and tolerable living conditions. Much depends on the possible success of these unskilled migratory workers in organizing. So far there has been little success. California has recently made an investigation of labor camps and has enforced better living conditions. The free public employment bureau thoroughly developed and publicly controlled would greatly help the situation. The private employment agencies of the present time are greatly criticized with reference to their private nature, the number of them, their fees, their relation to employers. What is needed is an organized labor-market with adequate machinery for finding jobs and filling vacancies. Many of the cities have free employment bureaus; but, comparatively, they are small in number, and have not been able to compete successfully with the private agencies. California has a law, in effect in 1913, which regulates the private agencies by license and bond and by returning fees under certain conditions. The situation was so bad in Washington that the people voted at the 1914 election to abolish altogether the private agencies; the measure adopted did not even provide for public bureaus. A measure providing for labor exchanges is being prepared for the Oregon legislature meeting in 1915.
The great industries of the Pacific coast are highly seasonal and there is very little dove-tailing of them. This means that in the winter months there are large numbers of unemployed. Their numbers by industries are given in the federal census. They leave their summer camps and flock to the cities, the centers of employment bureaus. In years of business depression the unskilled worker is caught unexpectedly, as indeed is industry. In such times, large numbers of the unemployed are utterly destitute. The winters of 1913 and 1914 were times of such experience. Some relief in shelter and food was provided by the cities; also a little work which was in the nature of relief was furnished. This was done through the city and county officials and through the collective effort of the aroused civic organizations. Unemployment is a problem as difficult to solve as it is grave. The first step in diminishing unemployment is to provide an adequate system of public employment agencies. This will probably accomplish more in reducing unemployment than is commonly supposed. Another proposal is to hold over city, county and state work until the unemployed season. In the northwest there is movement to employ the unemployed at clearing land. In this region there are large areas of stump-land. If the state would furnish cheap credit to the farmer both the rural situation and the unemployed would be benefited. California has recently appointed a commission to study the causes and effects of unemployment and to report.
A number of other labor conditions have received the attention of the legislators. In the three states, labor in mines is limited to eight hours and the hours of labor on railroads are carefully regulated. They also have the eight-hour day on public works as, indeed, have twenty-three other states. Oregon has a ten-hour law for men in mills and factories. California has an important law providing one day’s rest in seven. This has been on the statute books since 1893 but only recently has much attention been paid to its enforcement. The most important single general feature of labor laws is the enforcement provisions. Enforcement is being stressed more and more by the increasingly important labor bureaus of the three states, particularly in regard to the inspection of factories for unsanitary conditions and for unguarded machinery. California’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently been very active. The hours of labor permitted women in industry are definitely restricted; this feature will be discussed in a later paragraph. The subject of old-age pensions has been little discussed. The present-day worker tends to become unfit for the pace of modern industry at a comparatively early age, at a time of life when the professional man is only reaching maturity. This forces the issue of old-age pensions. California in 1913 appointed a commission of five to investigate and report on old-age pensions. Massachusetts and Wisconsin have similar commissions.
This summary of labor legislation shows that the Pacific coast states have advanced labor legislation to a degree quite comparable with that of their governmental reforms. This policy has not been wholly approved. The strongest criticism is concerned with the welfare of business. Business in one state may suffer from competition with business in another state if laws which affect the cost of production are unequal in the two states. Charges of this nature have been made in the Pacific coast states with reference to some businesses. It is to be observed, however, that labor legislation is rapidly spreading, thus reducing the evils of competition and lack of uniformity. For instance, in a very few years, workmen’s compensation laws have spread to twenty-four states. Indeed the rapid spread of social legislation is one of the incidental demonstrations of this paper.
Of all classes of wage-earners, women most need protection. They have not learned to organize for better wages and shorter hours, and there are special obstacles to their doing so. Yet, the inroads of machinery into the home-occupations are throwing large numbers of inexperienced women into the factory and the store, a situation not suited to a policy of little government and unrestrained liberty. And when it is remembered that women are peculiarly related to the welfare of the race, the new theory of the state seems amply warranted in legislating for their welfare. The new states of the Pacific coast, in moulding their social order, have not hesitated to provide for their women citizens.
Oregon was the first state to limit extensively the hours of labor for women; in 1907, a ten-hour law was adopted. Maine and North Dakota had previously passed ten-hour laws for women, but these were for a rather limited field of occupations. Oregon’s ten-hour law is famous in being the first to be declared constitutional by the supreme court of the United States. California and Washington, in 1911, adopted eight hour laws for women and remained unique in this respect until 1913, when eight-hour laws were passed in Arizona and Colorado. In 1914, a similar law was given the District of Columbia. The hours of labor of women in Oregon have been further restricted under the minimum wage law for women. This law gives the commission establishing the minimum wage the power to limit hours of labor. This has been done varyingly for the different industries.
Of recent labor legislation for women, the minimum wage laws have aroused the greatest interest. The causes necessitating the minimum wages for women are mainly these. The development of the factory and the consequent break down of home industry has forced large numbers of women to seek employment outside the home; and the large supply of women means a low wage. The supply has been unevenly distributed because of the attractions of the store and the unattractiveness of the domestic work in the private home. The situation has been further aggravated by the fact that some girls who could be partially supported by parents were willing to work at very low wages. These marginal girls thus forced down the wages of others who were not partially supported at home. Facts showing these conditions in Oregon were determined by an investigation conducted by the Oregon branch of the consumer’s league. The report claimed that "nearly three fifths of the women employed in industries in Portland receive less than $10.00 a week, which is the minimum weekly wage that ought to be offered to any self-supporting woman wage-earner in this city." Accordingly, in 1913, the Oregon Legislature passed a minimum-wage law, being the second state to do so. The law was the first, however, to be put into effect. Massachusetts had previously adopted a minimum-wage law in 1912, but was slower in putting it into effect. Oregon’s law further differed from Massachusetts’s in providing a penalty of a fine or prison sentence for violations. Oregon’s law served as a model for the California and Washington legislatures of 1913. Nine states now have minimum wage laws for women.
The minimum wage laws of the Pacific coast states create industrial welfare commissions with the power of setting minimum wages for women. These wages are recommended by conferences called by the commission and composed of employers and employees of the particular industry and of the public, each equally represented. The wage is legally set, however, only after a public hearing. As a result of rulings by the industrial welfare commission, the employers of industry now pay all women wage-earners in Oregon at least $8.25 a week. In Portland, the only large city in Oregon, the minimum wage is $8.64 a week in manufacturing establishments and $9.25 in offices and mercantile houses. Apprentices may work at $6.00 a week. In Washington, the minimum wage has been set at $8.90 in manufacturing establishments, $10.00 in stores, and $9.00 in telephone and telegraph offices and in laundries. The Washington apprenticeship ruling is somewhat better in that it limits the number of apprentices and the length of time of apprenticeship. The variation in the minimum wages is due to the theory that the wage should be a living wage. As to the effect of the minimum wage on business, the worker and society, no official reports or investigations have been published, although such reports are expected in a few months from the industrial welfare commissions and from the national bureau of labor statistics. However, the mercantile employers of Portland in the summer of 1914 testified before the federal industrial relations commission: (1) that the number of employees whose wages were increased was twenty-two per cent. of the total number of female employees, and that the amount of such increase in relation to the total payroll of both men and women was two per cent.; (2) that "as nearly as could be ascertained, no employees were discharged"; and (3) that the general effect on business was "negligible." Perhaps the strongest criticism of this testimony being typical would relate to the number of employees discharged. In Oregon there have been a score or more of prosecutions.
The welfare of the race and of women is further protected by mothers’ pension laws. These laws provide that a woman with young children whose husband is dead or incapacitated shall receive compensation if she or her children are dependent on her for support. This is a protection for the disintegrating home of modern industrial society and a protection for the children from the same influences that have necessitated the juvenile court. California, Oregon and Washington adopted such protective measures in 1913. Prior to 1913 only two states, Colorado and Illinois, had mothers’ pension laws. Now they are found in nineteen states.
The most widely admitted injustice to women is connected with prostitution, especially in its commercial aspects. Recent years have seen a nation-wide vice fight. On the Pacific coast the fight has been made, particularly in the cities, through vice commissions and reform administrations; Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles being notable cases. Portland has adopted what is known as the tin-plate ordinance which provides that the name of the owner of every rooming house, apartment and hotel must be placed conspicuously on the front of the building. The purpose of the tin-plate ordinance is to fix responsibility on the owners of the buildings. Cases are known where property which ordinarily rents from $40 to $100 a month brings a return of $350 a month when used for purposes of prostitution. The fact is on record that one piece of property in San Francisco costing $8,000 brought in $2,100 a week. The attack has mainly centered on the commercialized nature of the social evil. The unfortunate prostitute has thus yielded a large part of her earnings to the landlord, the lessee, or in some cases the organization which more or less controls her. Or she is prosecuted in the courts, and must pay a fine perhaps over and over again. The sinister aspect of the situation is that some one other than the prostitute reaps these dearly-paid-for earnings and escapes, while added suffering is meted to her. This situation explains the origin of the so-called red-light abatement laws. The abatement laws permit a judge to close any building that is used for purposes of prostitution. The building, may be opened again by giving a bond equal to the value of the building with the pledge not to allow prostitution within the building. Washington, Oregon and California have abatement laws, modeled on the recent Iowa law. The age of consent in each of these three states is eighteen years. As a result of the recent experience of the Pacific coast states, some headway has been made in fighting the sinister commercialization of prostitution.
The woman’s movement in its political aspects is well developed in the west. Women may now vote in each of the three Pacific coast states. Washington thus extended the franchise in 1910; California, in 1911; and Oregon, in 1912. Previous to 1910, four western states, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho, had permitted women to vote. Now twelve states have extended the franchise to women. The results of this extension of the suffrage are naturally of great interest. Some statistics of the number of women voting have been collected in different places. The relative proportions of women voting to men voting vary. Taking into consideration the fact that there are more men eligible to vote than women, an approximate average would show that about three quarters as many women as men vote. Women’s organizations are showing increased interest in political questions. Political speakers often find that women constitute more than half their audience. Coincident with the voting of women is the prominence given to moral issues. Prohibition and the abolition of capital punishment were voted at the 1914 election in Oregon, these measures having been previously defeated at a recent election in which only men voted. This does not prove that women carried these measures, yet the general opinion seems to favor this conclusion. Recent reform administrations in Portland and Seattle have been attributed partly to the influence of women voters. There is also evidence which points to the influence of women in bringing health and educational measures to the fore. Two members of the Oregon state legislature in 1915 are women.
There remains to be considered legislation which does not concern directly instruments of government, or laborers or women as classes; this may be called welfare legislation. This class includes such topics as taxation, public utilities, prisons, education, eugenics, the sale of liquor and immigration.
The system of revenue in nearly all the states is the general property tax. The verdict of political economists is that it is unjust and antiquated; unjust because intangible personality escapes taxation, and antiquated because adapted to the relatively simple condition of a more equal distribution of wealth found in newer communities. The general property tax is supplemented by other forms of revenue, as inheritance taxes, corporation taxes and licenses, so that some states, perhaps not more than ten, have escaped much of the evil resulting from the general property tax. Fewer than this number of states have definitely abandoned it, having separated state and local taxation. California abandoned the general property tax in 1910 and acquired the separation of state and local revenues. Oregon has on two occasions voted against proposals leading to the abandonment of the general property tax. Every election for the last few years in Oregon has brought forth a good-sized list of tax measures to be voted on; and not many of them pass. Intense interest in Oregon has centered on the single tax. The single tax as discussed in Oregon means the raising of larger proportions of revenue from land and smaller proportions from improvements and industry. The single-taxers claim that the increasing values of land are made by the community and that the community should take these values through taxation. They furthermore consider the taxation of industry as a hindrance to industrial development and unjust. The single-tax measures have assumed various forms, according to the imagined taste of the voters. Three times they have been voted down; though the election returns show that they were favored by about one third of the voters of Oregon.
Street railways are the public highways of the modern city dweller, as are the streets for the inhabitant of a small town. Hence the opposition to their use for private profit and the insistence on their regulation for the welfare of the citizens who have no other recourse than to use them. The public’s interest in these public utilities is further heightened by the close relationship that has existed between the governments of the cities and the officers of the public utility companies. This relationship is quite natural, but in some cases it has not worked for the best interests of the public. Hence another governmental function has been developed, that of regulating public utilities. California, Oregon and Washington in 1911 passed public utility acts modeled on the Wisconsin law, placing the control and regulation with the state railroad commission. There are a few instances of municipal ownership of street railways on the Pacific coast. Seattle began the operation of a short line in 1914. San Francisco affords the more important instance, being the first large city in the United States to own and operate a municipal street railway. The Geary Street Railway began operation as a municipal road in December, 1912, after a long fight begun in 1896. The line is five and one half miles long. Its operation has been successful and the citizens seem pleased with it. A municipally owned railway is also being run to the fair grounds of the Panama-Pacific Exposition.
In the cleaning up of prisons and the bettering of conditions of prison labor, the Pacific coast states have taken a leading place. The theory of prison reform is to turn prisoners back to society better men and women. To this end the "honor system" has developed. This means that prisoners are permitted to work at their various occupations with no armed guard, bound only by their pledge of honor. Published reports state that there are no more escapes than under the old system. The "honor system" has been developed in Nevada, Colorado and in a few prisons in Ohio and in New York; but Oregon is notable in having proportionately more prisoners working without guard. The "honor system" is more spectacular, but no more important than other features of prison reform, such as farm colonies, treatment of female prisoners, medical aid, manual training shops and the parole system. Progress in these features has been especially marked in California during the last three years. The private leasing of convicts by contract and the inhuman situation which often develops therefrom have been prohibited in Washington, Oregon and California. Washington and Oregon in 1912 and in 1914, respectively, abolished the death penalty.
It was long ago realized that public schools are foundation stones of efficient democracy. Theirwas one of the first extensions of the government’s functions. All the states now have them. The modern social movement is concerned with perfecting the already accepted system. The efficiency of the public school systems of the forty-eight states was recently investigated by the Russell Sage Foundation and a comparative study published in 1912. The measurements of efficiency were based on the following features; children in school, school plant, expense per child, school days per child, school year, attendance, expenditure and wealth, daily cost, high schools, salaries. Ranked according to these standards, Washington stood first of all the states, California fourth and Oregon fifteenth. California and Washington furnish free text-books to the public school children.
In the new science of eugenics, California is one of six states to require the sterilization of such unfit as the confirmed criminals, insane and feeble-minded, who are in institutions. Unfortunately, there are only a few of the feeble-minded confined to institutions. The Oregon legislature passed in 1913 a sterilization measure which was, however, referred to the people and defeated. The sterilization laws are similar to the Indiana law, which provides for a rather novel and simple operation which prevents the conception of offspring and thus safeguards society against the transmission of socially undesirable hereditary traits. These laws have sometimes fared badly with the courts and the changing governors. Oregon requires that the applicant for a marriage license shall present a certificate from a physician stating that he is free from venereal disease.
Oregon and Washington in 1914 voted in favor of prohibiting the sale and manufacture of liquor, making the total number of prohibition states fourteen. In the same year California voted on prohibition, but the measure failed to carry. California, however, has local option.
Immigration is a very serious matter for the Pacific coast states at the present time. Yet little has been done to receive the possibly large number of immigrants who may come and to prevent them from breaking wage scales, from congesting the cities and from developing bad housing conditions. The trade unions of the Pacific coast have held a convention on the subject. The most important step has been taken by California in creating a commission on immigration and housing, with a paid secretary and an annual budget. This commission has made a survey showing the status of housing, the living conditions of labor camps, and the methods of the various exploiters of immigrants. As a result of this survey, it is recommended that the state tenement house Act of 1911 be more strictly enforced, that the commission be given the power to license lodging houses used by immigrants, and that health and sanitation rules be more strictly enforced in the labor camps.
In making this brief survey of the experience of the Pacific coast states in state-building, the author has no doubt omitted several important features. Such omissions, with the exception of two, have been made because it was thought best to include only those features in which the Pacific coast states were somewhat distinctive. The two omissions just referred to are the rural problem and the development of business. These are important, but are without the limits of this paper.
The conclusions of this paper show that in empire-building citizens of a democracy have not hesitated to build according to the new theory of the state as set forth by the researches of political science, a theory that demands a government strongly and widely developed for the aims of social justice and collective effort. These new states have shown efficiency and built with dispatch. Government as collective organization and effort has been excellently demonstrated. The unrestrained liberty which has meant injustice to others or to the group has in many ways been restrained, and the forgotten rights of the unprotected have not been neglected. The new states have not hesitated to experiment. It is well to see these experiments in summary. Oregon was the first state to adopt the recall, the direct election of senators, the presidential preference primary, to pass an extensive ten-hour law for women and to put into effect the minimum wage law for women. California and Washington were first to adopt the eight-hour law for women. California was the first state in scientific budget making. Washington was first to abolish private employment bureaus and is first in the efficiency of public schools. Oregon was third to provide for the initiative and the referendum and was first to develop them. Oregon was second to adopt the direct primary and California was second to put into effect a law requiring the reporting of industrial diseases. There were only two states to precede the Pacific coast states in creating mothers’ pensions. In adopting other social legislation, while not the first, second or third states, Washington, Oregon and California were in a small leading group to legislate effectively on home rule for cities, child labor, hours of labor on public works, factory sanitation and inspection, employer’s liability, eugenics, prohibition, prison reform, public utilities, municipal ownership, the social evil and woman suffrage. The success of these experiments may be interpreted by observing the extent to which other states are following their example. To see the new social order of the Pacific coast, social legislation should be looked at in its entirety. This social order is distinctive. No other group of states possesses such a wealth of social legislation. This paper has aggregated the variety of cases found among these Pacific coast states and it is a very imposing picture that is revealed.
- The evidence for the above mentioned conclusions may be found in the following papers: Ogburn, “Direct Legislation in Oregon,” Quarterly Publications of the American Statistical Association, June, 1914; and Montague, “The Oregon System at Work,” National Municipal Review, April, 1914.