Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/716

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

SCIENCE AND PARTY GOVERNMENT.

IT would be hard to name two subjects which, in the general apprehension, are further removed from each other than those associated in this title. That science may in some way have possible relations with government and politics is vaguely believed by many, because they often hear the expressions "science of government," "political science," etc. But, as nothing is ever heard of any such thing as "party science," political partisans naturally conclude that, whoever else may be disturbed by this intrusive influence, they, at all events, may give themselves no trouble about having to reckon with it. But they repose in a false security As civilization goes on and the laws of its progress are better understood, it will be found that science has more and more to do with government, and, therefore, with the methods and practices by which government is administered.

This matter is dealt with incidentally in the able article of Professor Goldwin Smith, on "The Machinery of Elective Government," herewith reprinted, and which will repay attentive perusal. The writer has familiarized himself with the workings of the elective system, in various conditions and in its most advanced forms, as illustrated in England, Canada, and the United States, and he discusses it with the discrimination of a critical observer, and the freedom of an independent student of public affairs, who is but little trammeled by patriotic prejudice. The import of the question at the present time is thus stated: "The era of elective government has come, and in the wise ordering of it so as to give public reason the upper hand, and to reduce, as far as possible, the influence of passion, class interest, selfish ambition, faction, and corruption, lies the political hope of the world."

But Professor Smith then proceeds to show that, though the era has arrived, the thing it has brought is very different from the thing expected. It was long believed that if the rule of monarchs could be got rid of, and the rule of the people established, all the evils of bad government would be swept away. But experience has not justified this pleasing anticipation. The king has disappeared, and the people are assumed to be sovereign, but misgovernment continues, with even an aggravation of some of its worst vices. Our country revolted against hereditary rule, and put in its place elective government by the people; but, instead of a true elective system, giving fair expression to the popular will, we have got party government ruling systematically by caucus machinery, and defeating both the will of the people and the proper objects for which government exists.

Professor Smith characterizes government by party as a vicious agency, and enforces his view by convincing illustrations of its working in different circumstances; he also points out the policy which he thinks will have to be adopted if the evils of the system are to be abated or remedied. Of this policy we express no opinion: what most concern us here are the defenses that are offered for the continuance of party government; and our interest in these defenses is chiefly because of the scientific considerations they involve.

We are told that political parties are the necessary means of carrying on free popular government, and that they are but combinations of men united to achieve important measures of national