Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/282

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under this system, which is in a fair way to becoming the prevailing form of municipal government in the United States.

The story of the commission government was recently made the subject of an address in the senate of the United States by a member who was convinced that the new system was such an important discovery in popular government as to warrant calling the attention of the whole nation to it. Well may it be said of this, as of the other new municipal systems, that its early story has been "full of sound and fury." Is it also to be a tale "signifying nothing"? Is the dream of a new municipal era which has been aroused by the wonderful success of this new instrument of democracy destined to vanish as the former dreams have vanished?

Any significant answer must come from an inquiry into the efficiency of the new system—an effort to find out whether the principles underlying the new government are sound in the light of our municipal experience. Of course, many people believe that municipal efficiency is not to be found in any form of government, that it is the type of men in charge of the government and not the form of government that determines the character of the administration. Excellent administration, these people say, has been obtained under a poor system, and poor administration under an excellent system; therefore

For forms of government let fools contest
What's best administered is best.

The protest is itself an admission. If the form is unimportant, why such violent opposition to a change in the form? As a matter of fact, although the character of the public officials is an essential factor in the success or failure of a municipal administration, the type of political organization under which the officials work is also important. That inefficient officials will fail to give good government, no matter how excellent the system under which they work, is plainly borne out by American experience; and it is equally apparent that efficient public servants will not be able to secure the maximum of efficiency, and, indeed, will be very apt to obtain a minimum of efficiency, if handicapped by a system of government which is ill-adapted to the work to be performed. Moreover, the system exerts an important influence in determining the character of the men who are attracted to the public service. If it is so organized as to discourage the candidature of able men, an inferior type of elective official will result, and the subordinate administrative service will suffer accordingly. The inquiry into the efficiency of the commission plan, then, may be resolved into two questions: (1) Will the new system serve to attract efficient men into the elective offices? (2) Is the new system conducive to the application of approved methods to the public administration? In other words,