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On the other hand the socialist believes that society, through its agent, government, should extend its activities so as to include practically all the economic enterprises now conducted by individuals.
Between these two groups lies the great mass of citizens, who, adopting no fixed rule, would have the question of the government's function in any particular case settled by the merits of the case itself.
2. The Attitude of European Government toward Industry. — During the Middle Ages, and until the latter part of the eighteenth century, business of all kinds in Europe was strictly regulated by law. This was not difficult, because there were no large accumulations of capital under the control of small groups of men. Private corporations did not become prominent in the business world until the end of the eighteenth century, except the great trading companies of an earlier date; but, with the enormous expansion of business during the nineteenth century, they multiplied to such an extent that most of the business of the civilized world is now conducted by them. This means that business is now controlled by comparatively few men.
These men exert great influence in politics. They in general believe in the doctrine of laissez faire and do all in their power to prevent the regulation of business by city, county, state, and national governments. Toward the end of the eighteenth century England discontinued the strict control which she had previously exercised over private business. Frightful abuses in factories and mines soon appeared, and during the nineteenth century Parliament was compelled by public opinion to pass many laws for the regulation of trade and industry. These laws regulate the employment of women and chil
dren in mines and manufacturing establishments, protect the health of employees by providing for proper sanitary conditions, regulate transportation by land and sea, and in many other ways testify to the fact that the doctrine of laissez faire, after a short trial, has been abandoned in England. This doctrine never gained the foothold on the continent of Europe that it did in England, and trade and industry are even more strictly regulated there.
3. Laissez faire in the United States. — Nowhere in the civilized world has the doctrine of laissez faire ruled as it has in the United States. Three reasons may be mentioned for this :
1. The first is our love of liberty. This has caused us to be imposed upon by the absurd notion that every person should be permitted to conduct his own business exactly as he sees fit. Community rights as against the aggression of private individuals have never been fully appreciated in our country. Private business is sometimes detrimental to the public because of its nature, like the liquor business; and sometimes it imposes on the public because of the manner in which it is conducted, like the railroad business when its charges are unfair. In either case the community has a right to interfere, either to regulate or to prohibit.
2. The second reason why the doctrine of laissez faire has ruled so strongly in the United States is the abundance of our natural resources in land, timber, fish, game, water, oil, and the untold wealth of the mines. These things, which are the basis of our greatness, have been so abundant that we have followed the policy of permitting finders to be owners, with very little regulation on the part of the government. Vast fortunes have been made in lumber, coal, oil, salt, copper, and water power, by a few men in each case,
CIVIL GOV. IN CAL. — 2
who have been permitted to seize what belonged to the whole people and sell to the people at exorbitant prices. The fact that we have followed a laissez faire policy in the exploitation of our natural resources has been one of the strong influences in causing us to follow the same policy in respect to all other lines of business. If the oil business or the coal business is permitted to run without interference on the part of the government, the same privilege should be accorded to the manufacturing business, the meat packing business, etc.; for all these lines of industry are very closely connected one with another.
3. Our federal plan of government is another reason why the doctrine of laissez faire has obtained so strongly in our country. The national government can regulate only interstate business, while each state has the power to regulate business within its borders. This overlapping of authority has caused no small degree of uncertainty in the minds of legislators with respect to the exact limits of national and state powers. Largely because of this uncertainty, corporations engaged in interstate business have escaped adequate regulation. It is significant that when the national government undertakes to impose regulations upon any great business interest, the men affected raise the cry of states' rights. This explains why we are hearing more about states' rights? now than at any other time since the slave interest, by raising the same cry, attempted to escape regulation on the part of the national government.
4. Government Regulation of Industry in the United States. -- Toward the end of the nineteenth century pub
1 For example, interests opposed to the conservation of our natural resources are now advocating the theory that conservation should be looked after by the several states, and that the federal government should surrender to the states all its claims to the lands containing timber, mineral deposits, water power sites, etc.
lic opinion in our country began to favor government regulation of private business; and during the last twenty years many laws with this end in view have been enacted by Congress and the various state legislatures. To the same end cities and counties have enacted numberless local ordinances. Laissez faire has proved a failure here as in England, and very few disinterested persons still believe in it.
The scope of governmental activity is steadily widening, because the realm of public wants and interests is widening. Many things that were formerly considered as private affairs are now considered public in character. Furthermore, as life becomes more complex, and people become more and more dependent upon one another, government must regulate more and more minutely the conduct of individuals in their dealings with one another.
The government of any community is conducted by public officers and employees, and is practically what they make it. If they fail to distinguish sharply between public and private interests, public wants will not be satisfied, and public interests will not be advanced. In these days when private business must be more carefully regulated than ever before, our public officers are subjected to greater temptations than ever before by men whose profits would be greater if the government would not interfere with their business enterprises. These men are in politics for the definite purpose of controlling public offices, and many of them resort to corrupt methods in order to gain their ends. This means that the interest of the people will not be properly looked after unless their officers are honest, efficient, and exceedingly strong. The selection of public officers is therefore the most important duty that devolves upon the voters of our country.
THE SELECTION OF PUBLIC OFFICERS
5. Methods of selecting Public Officers. — Public officers, the world over, gain their positions in three ways: by inheritance, by appointment, and by election. In a republic, they gain their positions by election and by appointment; in an absolute monarchy, by inheritance and by appointment; in a limited or constitutional monarchy, by all three methods.
In choosing elective officials, two important steps are necessary: the nomination and the election. The nomination is a complicated process; but the election is quite simple, because all that the voters have to do on election day is to choose officers from the candidates previously nominated. The greater part of this chapter is therefore devoted to an exposition of the manner in which candidates are nominated.
There are three methods of nominating candidates for office in common use in the United States : nomination by political conventions, nomination by direct primaries, and nomination“ by petition.”
6. The Convention Method of making Nominations. — The convention method was the only one used throughout the country until recent years; it is still extensively used, but is being rapidly replaced by the two other methods.
According to this method, each political party holds a state convention before any state election, for the purpose
1 Seizure of office by usurpation might be considered a fourth method.