GODKIN SPEAKER DESCRIBES ADMINISTRATIVE NEEDS
Following are excerpts from a Godkin lecture delivered at Littauer Center last night by Charles E. Merriam, professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.
The modern world is filled with leaders who came from nowhere. What powers may or should be entrusted to leaders, and what the rules, regulations, conventions and understandings should be in a Democratic society is a problem for which a high level of sophistication and discrimination is required. The European solution seen in Naziism and Fascism is not an answer at all, but an avoidance or postponement of the answer. Despotism is no advance over the centuries of ancient tyranny.
On the other hand, peoples, democratic or otherwise, who cannot adjust their institutions and choices to the needs of emergency decision are likewise doomed-for the opposite reason. If they cannot trust themselves to use the powers of their community for the common good-nay, the common life-they will not survive. Fear, distrust, suspicion-these are not the bases of vital power, States are not strong in proportion as their government is weak. Liberty is not secure in proportion as government has no power. Protection at home and abroad is the life of liberty. Protection against special groups at home and against warlike powers abroad.
Should Trust Leaders
Wars cannot be conducted without wide-ranging authority in the hands of the leader; and important social changes cannot be made without wide powers of policy and administration in the hands of the leaders. Not to trust any leaders is not to trust yourself, the formula for weakness and dissolution. Graveyards are full of timid men and timid nations, who died because they trusted no one.
Demagogues and despots are alike the foes of the common weal. But between them is the possibility of democratic leaders democratically chosen and democratically responsible to the community they serve.
The agenda of democracy calls for a sounder understanding of the relations between the executive and the legislative authority. Otherwise the ship of state may be wrecked upon this rock. I have already discussed the role of the legislative authority and repeat the main four points here, as follows: 1) fiscal allocations, 2) general policies or directives, 3) general supervision of administration, and 4) organization of controversy about national issues.
What is involved is broader discussion in broader terms of national policy, less of detail and more of broad consideration. Executive authority belongs with the executive, while powers of appropriation, of general policy determination, of overall inspection and supervision are within the hands of the legislative. They might be more effectively exercised to provide more effective position of the legislative in the commonwealth.
Broader Legislative Powers
These words, I realize, can readily be twisted into a charge that an attempt is being made to restrict, restrain, crib cabin and confine the legislative body in the interest of the executive. I pause therefore to say with all possible emphasis that this is a suggestion for broadening and strengthening the powers of the legislative body, and making it an even more important factor in national organization. Legislative bodies are not strong in detail but in general principle; they are most competent not in the minutiae of government but in the determination of the general directives of government action. The very greatest quality of the Constitution in the opinion of many notable commentators is the broad sweep of its language, its success in enunciating general principles of political action. As state constitutions grew longer and longer, they became weaker, and as state and congressional statutes became longer and longer, they lost some of their original values.
Public administration at this critical moment is of greater importance than over before. With startling and incredible rapidity, volcanic changes have swept over the world, smashing at the ways of life and thrusting at us urgent problems of the most fundamental type. Many of these problems depend for their solution upon skill in administrative management.
The democratic national state finds itself ringed around by hostile forces vowing the extermination of democracy and the reduction to practical slavery of its peoples, ruthlessly and pitilessly. This aggression contemplates the destruction of all that stands in the way of a military imperialism which has equipped itself with weapons of modern technology, from chemical explosives to propaganda and mass psychology.
This challenge to America and to the democratic national states summons the use of every energy at our command, in the most effective manner possible. Both external affairs and internal relations will be subjected to the very severest strain, and will test to the limit our capacity for readjustment to the realities of the modern struggle for life. Among the ways and means of survival in this fateful hour, administrative management will loom large-if not the largest single factor in the death grapple we now face. What we encounter is not just another "interesting, problem" but a bloody clash with grim reality. What we are swiftly approaching-are now actually in-is a now era in national and world affairs. This is a revolutionary period-almost a preview of Armageddon.
Axis Influences Administration
By reason of the Axis blackout of free institutions, the administration of national defense is an urgent problem, opening out new and difficult situations of many kinds arising from new forms of "total war." Unless an early and decisive defeat is inflicted upon the Axis Powers, we must contemplate farflung warfare, declared or undeclared, military, economic, diplomatic, of a new and total type, hitherto unfamiliar to mankind. This contest will involve a sweeping reorientation and reorganization of administrative practice in many directions by keen and energetic minds, many of whom will be administrators.
In dealing with social forces moving with incredible velocity, as at the present time, the judgement and capacity of the administrator on the job will inevitably be of very great moment.
Modern Warfare Different
The kind of world struggle now breaking upon us involves far more than the old-time mobilization of an army and its distant support with men, munitions and provisions. Modern war places the civilization population in the front line of defense. Civilian as well as military administration is called upon for personnel, plans, management of situations as in London and Berlin, which are not described in the books. Invention and improvisation are imperative. There may be no time for legislatures to convene or for courts to decide. Competent and energetic administrative staff must carry the load for the time.
But our modern contest is fought not merely with military weapons of the old and new types, but with economic explosives as well. Organizational devices-are now directed toward the mobilization of the entire resources of the nation against forces aiming to annihilate or subdue us. Export-import control, systems of barter, blocked currencies, manipulated exchanges and credit instruments are types of the means in question; and these devices in turn rest upon administrative management of men and materials.
Democratic Counterattack Needed
Total national forces assembled in massive fashion and directed against individual nations are difficult to withstand. We do not propose to adopt totalitarian principles or methods based upon them, but in order to defend ourselves successfully we must contrive our policies of counterattack. Our new democratic policies will call for administrative management of very high quality-superior personnel, superior fiscal management, superior planning, superior methods and practices-blending together the highest available skills of industrial management, military management, public administration; and summoning ability to meet emerging situations for many of which there will be found no precedents.
Sound Management Required
Demobilization of emergency efforts and the return to stabilization again-is likewise a task of fundamental importance, a task to which we must look forward and for which we must plan before the new situation leaps out at us and demands a solution.
At such points, the interrelations of army administration, civil administration and private administration are of the highest consequence to the welfare of our citizens. Without sound management, the structure of society will bog down and flounder, but skilled personnel and practices will aid immeasurably in reconstruction and readjustment. Otherwise, peace may bring calamities as hard to bear as those of a war, or a war-tension period.
Democracy Can Be Efficient
There is no inherent conflict between high ideals of democracy and high administrative capacity. On the contrary, they are rooted in the same fertile soil of reason and faith in the future. But it is important to see to it that nothing stands in the way of their, union.