Слике страница
PDF
ePub

the remaining agents of government, historical, negative and apparently accidental considerations, have had a preponderating weight. The possible exception is the lieutenant-governor who is, in New York, chosen by popular vote, but who is dispensed with altogether in other states, for example, the neighboring state of New Jersey.

Provisions in Constitutions of New York

The statement that historical, negative, and accidental considerations have had a determining weight in deciding whether other public servants should be elective or appointive requires elucidation. Under the constitutions of 1777 and 1821, several high executive officers of the state were chosen by the legislature.

Choice By Legislature and "the Albany Regency"

It was found, however, by practical experience that this method did not establish responsibility or efficiency in all branches of the government, and that an unofficial system dominated by "bosses" known as "the Albany Regency," had sprung up outside of the government for the purpose of controlling all of the patronage of the state, and had practically taken out of the hands of the legislature and the governor the selection of the high public officers as well as the minor officers.

Direct Election as a Cure for "Invisible Government" This condition of "invisible" invisible" government was largely responsible for the demand for the revision of 1846. One of the tasks which the constitutional convention of that year regarded itself as called upon to accomplish was the " abolition" of the system of irresponsible government so far as it was connected with the choice of executive officers under the constitution of 1821. In other words, negation, as before, was uppermost in the minds of the delegates. It happened about the same time that Western Europe was disturbed by the agitation against royal and imperial despotism which broke out in 1848 in a series of violent revolutions in France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. This agitation was in one significant respect similar to that which had accompanied the American revolution; that is, it was aimed at the destruction of the arbitrary power of hereditary despots. The obvious remedy seemed to be the destruction of the executive. That was the primary task before rising democracies.`) It was not possible to talk about controlling the executives in the name of efficient democracy until democracy had reduced the executive to such a constitutional position that he could be controlled by law. It was under these circumstances the clamor for the abolition of the unofficial despotism of the Albany Regency and the wide-spread agitation against official despotism of European monarchs which reached our shoresthat the convention of 1846 made the secretary of state, comptroller,

treasurer, attorney general, state engineer, and the judges elective by popular vote. The one was aimed at the abuse of legislative power, the other was aimed at the abuse of executive power. Both sought to accomplish their ends by giving to the electorate a larger sphere of power.

General Acceptance of Theory as Democratic

It is true, the proceedings of the convention of 1846 record a demand that these high officers be made responsible to the people by the establishment of popular election, but it is likewise true that abolition of certain evils was uppermost in the minds of the delegates. They evidently assumed that by transferring the right of election from the legislature to the people the irresponsible and unofficial boss system, which had hitherto controlled the choice in fact, would disappear, on the general theory that leadership is not essential to intelligent operations in such matters. That which was a historical accident then became a dogma, namely, that all high officers, no matter what their duties, must on democratic principles, be elected by popular vote. And the theory has been carried to such a great length that a governor of a western state solemnly declared not long ago that the appointment of the state veterinarian by the chief executive savored of monarchy.

Need for Principle Consistent with Requirements of Responsible Government

Yet those who have applied this dogma so confidently have shown neither consistency nor the courage of their convictions. To speak more concretely, no conclusion or guiding principle has ever been put forth for determining what officers should be elected and what officers should be appointed. No official or determining body has given a reasonable answer to the question: "Why should the state engineer and surveyor be elected by popular vote and the superintendent of public works be appointed by the governor and the senate?"

kind cannot be theories They must come from No sensible business

Standards for judgment in matters of this evolved in the closet of the political philosopher. experience in the successful conduct of affairs. man who has a large staff of employees under him regards it an invasion of his sovereignty when he surrenders to an expert engineer whom he has selected the power to choose employees who are to work under him. No one who is familiar with practice in governments which are responsive and responsible, will contend that appointment of subordinates by those who are to be held responsible for results, has operated to destroy the principle of representative government. So it is absurd to claim that the people lose their sovereignty if they surrender to the governor whom. they elect the right to appoint the state engineer. An obvious retort is: that they lost it when they surrendered the right to elect all the other

officers of consequence in the executive departments. On the contrary, it has been amply shown by experience that no tests of practical democracy require the election of a long list of state officials, if provision is made. for holding the head of the government responsible. As before pointed out, the condition which has given rise to the various experiments and new expedients has been the failure to make positive provisions for utilizing the existing machinery to make governing agents responsive and responsible— consequently the negative provisions employed to render officers. harmless when operating under a plan which provides only for irresponsible control.

Advocates of the Present Method on the Defensive

Considering the fact that responsible government has been one in which there has been a single elected or appointed head of administration, cither this or a small elected or appointed council, and the further fact that every government in which a large number of administrative officers are elected has proved to be both irresponsive and irresponsible, it is incumbent upon those who favor the latter practice to show that it is compatible with democratic theory. Those who claim that the people are fully competent to elect any officer appeal to popular pride, and choose a premise for argument that few in America will deny, but the further claim that the voters may elect ten, twenty, or fifty executive officers at the same time is an entirely different matter. It is showing no disrespect for a man to say that his ability to break any stick in a bundle does not imply that he can break at one time as many sticks as may be wrapped together. Few of the champions of the election of a long list of executive officers would go so far as to hold that the voters could actually and effectively choose the five hundred or thousand administrative officers of the state government at one election. From the point of view of the capacity of the electorate, therefore, there must be a limit to the number of officers that can be chosen by popular vote.

[ocr errors]

Assuming "Electorate" Adapted to Choosing, Not Consistent with Administration

But assuming the electorate is competent to exercise good judgment. in choosing ten, twenty or fifty officers out of a list of from twenty to two hundred candidates, further questions are to be answered, viz., whether and to what extent this method of selection is desirable; to what extent may popular election be successfully used as a means of locating and enforcing responsibility; to what extent is it adapted to the development of efficiency. Past experience may be reduced to conclusions that may serve as guiding principles for determining what officers may be elected to advantage and what should be appointed.

Limitations of Electorate

If governing agents are to be made responsive to the popular will through the electorate, then the number of state offices that should be filled by election is naturally confined by the following limitations:

1. No officer should be elected whose powers and duties do not make him important enough to attract and secure intensive and extensive popular interest, concern and scrutiny. 2. Only those officers should be elected who have the power to decide important questions of policy or who are expected to assume leadership in the formulation and execution of governmental programs, for the aim of efficient democratic government is to carry out the will of the electorate and to locate responsibility for doing so.

3. The number of officers elected at any one time should be so limited that the policies and merits of each may receive adequate and effective scrutiny by the voters.

Requirements of Administration

If governing agents are to be made responsible for what they propose as well as what they do-for fidelity, for efficiency, and for economy in the use of public powers and resources-then another principle may be accepted which is quite in harmony with those above stated, viz., that only such officers should be elected as are to act independently; that those who are to act as subordinates should be appointed. If governing agents are to be held to account for fitness of subordinates ample provision should be made to determine fitness and ability to render service, but the means provided should not be such as to destroy official responsibility. If governing agents are to be held to account for efficiency, then the conditions surrounding public employment, such as initial salaries, rights to advances or promotion, tenures, retirement, health and comfort, as well as powers of discipline, should be such as will enable responsible offices in the government to develop and retain experience and expertness in the handling of the many complex and difficult problems of the public.

service.

Appointment of Subordinates an Essential of Executive Responsibility

There are no abstract principles of democracy or government which are deserving of consideration that do not rest on practical experience. Power, as Senator Root has said, should be commensurate with responsibility. One of the powers essential to the fulfillment of administrative responsibility is the power to determine the fitness and exercise the discipline necessary to direct, control and develop the expertness of subordinates. From this point of view administrative provisions of the present constitution are hopelessly at variance with all principles and all

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

CHART I.-SHOWING THE DIFFERENT METHODS PRESCRIBED BY LAW FOR APPOINTING HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS, OFFICES, BOARDS AND

COMMISSIONS.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

THE NEW YORK BUREAU OF MUNICIPAL RESEARCH

« ПретходнаНастави »