The Pasteur Medal, offered annually for the best 10 minutes speech on contemporary French politics, was awarded last evening to M. Suravitz '13. The subject was "The Principle of Ministerial Responsibility in its Relation to the French Parliamentary System."
Suravitz maintained that ministerial responsibility is not out of place in a coalition government like that of France. A two-party system is unnecessary there, for a change of ministry does not necessarily mean a change in policy, and, what is equally important, many of the same ministers are retained. France lays very little responsibility on parties, but insists only that they do their work well. Another reason that the two-party system would not be a success in France is the great centralization of the Franch government. The Minister of Justice alone has the power to make 8000 appointments and if there were one dominant party, that party would be a virtual despot. The committee system acts as a check on the enormous powers of the French Minister. What the French Minister lacks in irresponsibility he makes up in power, and what the English Minister lacks in power he makes up in irresponsibility. It is the maintenance of such features of administration as the coalition and committee systems which means the success and not the failure of ministerial responsibility in France.
O. Ryan '11 maintained that the essential condition of a two-party system is lacking in France. There are not two parties because the French seek the ideal in politics rather than the practical. Reasonable interpretation, however, gives ground for the opinion that parliamentary government in Frances is approaching the goal of efficiency.
A. A. Berle '13 favored the present system in France. She now stands out as one of the most prosperous nations in Europe. The ministerial responsibility acts as a balance wheel to the Republic. It has made for national stability, local efficiency, and general satisfaction in the French populace.
A. D. Brigham '12 was the next speaker. The question is not whether parliamentary government is a complete success, but whether it is not the best government which France could have. The present government works better than is generally believed.
I. A. Wyner '13 believed that the strife of parties in France was due to the fact that the people had not learned the are of government. They have, however, gained a sense of political wisdom, and today there has grown up a strong and stable government which has replaced the weakness of the formative period. The ministry at present receives the co-operation of all classes and parties.
C. B. Randall '12 gave two defects in the machinery of French government. In the first place, the Frenchmen do not divide into majority and minority parries, but into numerous parties. In the second place, the method of choosing committees in the Chamber is too haphazard. It is a vital defeated that the cabinet is forced to conciliate so many parties.
J. A. Donovan '13 maintained that the responsibility of the French ministry is misplaced. It should be on the people and through them on the Chamber and Senate, as is the case in England. This might lead to a dual party and eradicate the present bureaux system. If the power in the Chamber were arrested and placed in the people, the present weaknesses would probably be abolished.