Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/713
THE CONDITIONS OF EFFICIENT GOVERNMENT.
WHEN a private employer of labor wants work well done he tries to employ, in the first place, persons who are presumably, and to the best of his judgment, competent to do it well, and then he gives them an opportunity to show what their qualifications really are. He tests their work as they go on in every way possible, and, if he finds it satisfactory, he congratulates himself on the excellent service he is getting and on the prospect of still better results in the future as his workmen, clerks, superintendents, or whatever they may be, acquire greater experience. If any one were to come and suggest to him to inquire into the political opinions of his assistants and to replace any who did not think quite as he did by inexperienced persons whose one certified virtue was that their political complexion was exactly the same as his own, he would conclude that he had struck a lunatic, and would probably inform the gentleman that such was his opinion.
But, turning to the people of the United States, we may say, in the words of the Roman poet, "The story is told of you with a simple change of name." Yet, after all, there is more than a change of name; for we have assumed that the private employer of labor would treat the person who made such a suggestion to him as a lunatic; but not so do the people of this country treat those who make like suggestions to them. Far from it; they have in past times appeared to find such advice good, and have made those who gave it their trusted counselors. They have cut short the official careers of men who had just begun, after a few years' necessary experience, to be fully competent in their several positions, in order that the work might be taken up by incompetent (because inexperienced) men of a different political profession of faith, on the understanding that the latter should remain in office only so long as their party was "on top" or so long as they themselves continued to be meet instruments of party policy. A given official might at a given moment be carrying on important investigations, the various threads of which were gathered in his own hands and head — possibly a post office inspector trying to get on the track of a series of mail robberies, or a customs officer similarly employed as regards frauds on the revenue, or a statistician marshaling an elaborate array of facts by methods which he himself had carefully devised and could alone apply with the best results, or the head of some scientific bureau who, after a battle with disorganization and sloth and the indifference bred of the political system, had conquered the forces of opposition, established order, and prepared the way for a vigorous advance of the important work committed to him — what would it matter? — whatever he was, or whatever he was doing, when the hour came that a stronger than he politically wanted his place, the supposed guardian of the public interests, cabinet minister or President, would order his dismissal, and bring in the new man to throw everything into confusion, or, at the very least, to retard in a more or less serious degree operations that might have been carried on without a break, to the great advantage of the community.
We do not mean to say that changes have never been made for the better. That has been as it chanced; and certainly under our system changes for the better have for the most part been only too possible. Who that has any ac-