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Causes of Bad Legislation ; The Outlook for Currency Reform; The Resignation
of President Andrews.
THE “SOCIÉTÉS DE SECOURS MUTUELS" OF FRANCE,
W. F. Willoughby
THE YALE REVIEW
A QUARTERLY JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC DISCUSSION OF
ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, AND SOCIAL QUESTIONS.
THE YALE REVIEW is owned by The Yale Publishing Company. It is edited by Professors HENRY W. FARNAM, Arthur T. HADLEY, W. F. BLACKMAN, E. G. BOURNE, John C. SchwAB, and IRVING FISHER.
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Copyright, 1897, by
Causes of Bad Legislation; The Outlook for Currency Reform;
The Resignation of President Andrews.
HERE can be no doubt that the session of Congress which
has just closed has been a severe disappointment to many thoughtful members of both parties. Not that thoughtful members of either party are in the habit of expecting a great deal from sessions of Congress in general; but in this particular case there were special reasons for predicting a better result than usual. There was a universal feeling as to the need of such action as would put our business interests on a sound basis. This, it was admitted, could only be secured by permanent provision for the safety of the currency, and by tariff legislation moderate enough not to provoke sudden and sweeping change. Our history in the immediate past has been such as to bring these necessities home to business men and statesmen. We had seen the violent reaction provoked by the McKinley Act of 1890; a reaction no less harmful to the party which was responsible for the law than to the over-protected interests themselves. We had passed through a commercial crisis of the severest kind, whose beginning and whose continuance directly connected themselves with an unusual currency. The real needs of the country were emphasized in the platform of the winning party. That party won, because these emphatic statements in its platform attracted a very large number of votes from the opposing party; and the election was sufficiently close to make public men recognize the fact that the election had been decided by these votes. More than all this, those
members of the dominant party whose positions gave them the most to do with shaping fiscal legislation—the Secretary of the Treasury, the Speaker, and the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, were all of keen business insight and thoroughly responsible characters. With such antecedents and under such men the Republican party stood committed to a policy of sound currency legislation, a budget which should provide sufficient revenue to meet the expenses of the government, and a tariff moderate enough to have a prospect of permanence. What has been the result? No currency legislation; a fiscal deficit staring us in the face; a tariff which is in some respects the most indefensible of any that the United States have ever had. Fiscal needs were made the excuse for postponing action on the currency until the tariff question was settled; and a tariff was put together in which those same fiscal needs were conspicuously ignored.
It is not our purpose to discuss the evils of the present tariff. This has already been done ad nauseam in the daily and weekly press. Let us rather see, as a study in the workings of representative government, why it was that a body of men, so well organized and so intelligent as the Republican members of Congress, who had assembled with the intention of adopting a much better fiscal policy, came to content themselves with such a bad one. The reason, we think, is to be found in the fact that our system of district representation puts all pressure in favor of granting local or temporary demands even at the sacrifice of general and permanent good.
A member goes to the House as a representative of a district; he goes to the Senate as the representative of a State. He expects, and he is expected, to look out for the interests of his district or his State. He may not and probably does not expect to sacrifice the public interests in behalf of the local ones; but if a measure is under discussion which seems likely to benefit the district at the expense of the whole body of taxpayers, he is prone to weigh the total gain of his locality on the one hand against its very small fraction of the expense on the other, and to be active in urging a measure whose net result is bad. Meantime the other members, whose interests might lead them to