Politics and Spoil

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Politics and Spoil  (1899) 
by Franklin Smith

From the NYT of March 26, 1899

The organization of powerful political parties becomes natural and inevitable. It is just as natural and inevitable that the more numerous the duties intrusted to the State - that is, the greater the spoil to be fought for in caucus and convention and on the floors of Legislatures - the more powerful, dangerous and demoralizing they are certain to be. Were these duties confined to the maintenance of order and the enforcement of justice, it would be an easy matter for the busiest citizen to give them the attention they required. When to these duties are added the managemnet of agricultural stations, the inspection of all kinds of food, the extirpation of injurious insects, noxious weeds and contagious diseases; the licensing of various trades and professions, the suppression of quacks, fortune tellers, and gamblers; the production and sale of sterilized milk and the multitude of other duties now intrusted to the Government, it is no wonder that he finds himself obliged to neglect public questions and to devote himself more closely to his own affairs in order to meet the ever-increasing burdens of taxation. Neither is it any wonder that there springs up a class of men to look after the duties he neglects and to make such work a means of subsistence. The very law of evolution requires such a differentiation of social functions and organs.

The politicians is not, therefore, the product of his own love of spoliation solely, but of the necessities of a vicious extension of the duties of the State. There is nothing more abnormal or reprehensible about his existence under the present regime than there is about the physician or lawyer where disease and contention prevail. As long as the conditions are maintained that created him, so long will he ply his profession. When they are abolished he will be abolished. No number of citizens' unions or non-partisan movements, or other devices of hopeful but misguided reformers to abolish him, can modify or reverse this immutable decree of social science.