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Declaring that the initiative, referendum, and the recall are necessary to the ultimate vitality of a really democratic political system, Mr. Herbert Croly, in the fourth of the Godikn Lectures on "Democracy and Responsibility" last night, stated that, with the constantly increasing power of the mechanism of civilization, direct government becomes as essential to democracy as universal suffrage.
Mr. Croly began by discussing questions connected with political re-organization exclusively with reference to the mechanism of state government, treating the subject fully. In reaching his conclusions, he stated that neither representative government nor government by law nor any combination between the two are competent to meet all the requirements of a democratic policy. A clear-sighted, self-confident and loyal democracy will keep in its own hands the active control of all the agents and instruments of its own fulfillment. The instinctive repugnance which the American democracy has always exhibited to the delegation of too much power to any one of the separate departments of government is explicable and justifiable. The traditional American system was right in seeking a balance among the various specific activities of government as a matter both of prudence and of efficiency. The necessity of that balance still remains.
With the constantly increasing scope of the power of the mechanism of civilization, direct government becomes as essential to democracy as universal suffrage. Both are necessary to a fundamentally ethical conception of the organization and exercise of political power as contrasted with one whose chief offsets are safety or immediate efficiency. The rule, however, works both ways. On the one hand, the adoption of the machinery of direct government finds its best justification in the fact that the modern state has to undertake a program of social amelioration, and has to assume for that purpose peculiarly serious responsibilities and call to its aid portentous political and technical powers. On the other hand, if a democracy adopts the machinery of direct government and then uses the power so obtained in a jealous and suspicious spirit, it will be losing itself in the blindest and most confusing of all political labyrinths. Direct government will fall and be superseded unless the electorate uses its discretionary authority on behalf of the policy of social betterment and unless it consents to be delegation of effective subordinate Powers to human instruments of such a policy
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