Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/717

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699
EDITOR'S TABLE.

nection with popular institutions; but in some way or other the nation, as a whole, has set its face against it, and the suspicion of being systematically corrupt—that is to say, of practicing, or being prepared to practice, corruption in the administration of the national Government would be fatal to either political party.

Twenty years ago the "spoils system" was in full force. Every office under the Government was virtually used for purposes of bribery. It was bestowed in the first place as a reward for fidelity to party, and the salary attached to it was afterward assessed for contributions to the party funds. The sense of decency of the people has risen up in revolt against this abomination, and, though the principles of civil-service reform have not yet been carried far enough, the great body of the national civil service has been placed on an independent and honorable footing. No party manager can now fry the meager "fat" out of the smaller office-holders for political purposes; the only persons to whom that process can at present be applied are the higher functionaries and the protected manufacturers. The result of this partial yet extensive reform of the civil service has been a considerable increase in the efficiency of the public departments. The public interest is now kept in view where formerly there was little thought of anything save how to make an office temporarily held of as much advantage as possible to the holder. The effect on the selfrespect of the service is already marked, and we can not doubt that it will become more so as years go on.

But there is further progress yet to be made. The perfection of any machine is to consist of the fewest parts—in other words, to be as simple as possible in construction—and to accomplish its work with the least possible loss of energy. In judging of our political and administrative institutions we can not keep this analogy too closely in view. But here arises a prior question: "What is the work which our political machine should be set to accomplish? Is it, for example, to regulate the whole industrial and commercial life of the people? If so, adieu all hope of simplicity of construction! Adieu, we may add, all hope of any efficient performance of so huge, so unlimited a task. As has often been pointed out—more than once in these columns—the system of taking certain industries under the protection and patronage of the state is, in itself, a species of corruption, and has its natural result in special acts of gross corruption. "What will a wealthy manufacturer, whose profits depend in large measure upon a tariff enacted for his special benefit, not do for the party that made and maintains the tariff? The thing is too obvious to need insisting on. The more help a party receives from the controllers of tariff-fed industries the more independent it is of the people; and it is for the people to see to it that they are not strangled in cords of their own making. The governing power in a state ought to be under no obligations of any kind to individuals, corporations, or interests within the state; it should stand aloof from all these, in order that it may do justice to all without fear or favor, without prejudice or partiality. Until this condition prevails it is absolutely impossible that we should have honest government in the full sense of the word. It is evident then what the next step in the purification of our national life must be: it is the freeing of the governing power from all dependence on, and all entangling alliances with, private interests. "We believe that, were this done, a higher standard of public duty and a nobler tone of public life would at once be established; and we should begin to see more clearly how, in other respects, our administrative methods might be improved. The ideal of a free state is the largest possible measure at once of liberty and security for the individual citizen, and