History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.

=The City Manager Plan.=—­A few years’ experience with commission government revealed certain patent defects.  The division of the work among five men was frequently found to introduce dissensions and irresponsibility.  Commissioners were often lacking in the technical ability required to manage such difficult matters as fire and police protection, public health, public works, and public utilities.  Some one then proposed to carry over into city government an idea from the business world.  In that sphere the stockholders of each corporation elect the directors and the directors, in turn, choose a business manager to conduct the affairs of the company.  It was suggested that the city commissioners, instead of attempting to supervise the details of the city administration, should select a manager to do this.  The scheme was put into effect in Sumter, South Carolina, in 1912.  Like the commission plan, it became popular.  Within eight years more than one hundred and fifty towns and cities had adopted it.  Among the larger municipalities were Dayton, Springfield (Ohio), Akron, Kalamazoo, and Phoenix.  It promised to create a new public service profession, that of city manager.


=The Spirit of American Reform.=—­The purification of the ballot, the restriction of the spoils system, the enlargement of direct popular control over the organs of government were not the sole answers made by the reformers to the critics of American institutions.  Nor were they the most important.  In fact, they were regarded not as ends in themselves, but as means to serve a wider purpose.  That purpose was the promotion of the “general welfare.”  The concrete objects covered by that broad term were many and varied; but they included the prevention of extortion by railway and other corporations, the protection of public health, the extension of education, the improvement of living conditions in the cities, the elimination of undeserved poverty, the removal of gross inequalities in wealth, and more equality of opportunity.

All these things involved the use of the powers of government.  Although a few clung to the ancient doctrine that the government should not interfere with private business at all, the American people at large rejected that theory as vigorously as they rejected the doctrines of an extreme socialism which exalts the state above the individual.  Leaders representing every shade of opinion proclaimed the government an instrument of common welfare to be used in the public interest.  “We must abandon definitely,” said Roosevelt, “the laissez-faire theory of political economy and fearlessly champion a system of increased governmental control, paying no attention to the cries of worthy people who denounce this as socialistic.”  This view was shared by Mr. Taft, who observed:  “Undoubtedly the government can wisely do much more ... to relieve the oppressed, to create greater equality of opportunity, to make reasonable terms for labor in employment, and to furnish vocational education.”  He was quick to add his caution that “there is a line beyond which the government cannot go with any good practical results in seeking to make men and society better.”

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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