The American Party System: An Introduction to the Study of Political Parties in the United States

By Charles Edward Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE SPOILS SYSTEM (Continued)

CAUSES OF THE SPOILS SYSTEM

The consequences charged to the prevalence of the spoils system in party affairs have been of the most serious character. They include the breakdown of representative government over large areas and long periods of time; the destruction of the party system itself in cities and elsewhere through bi-partisan combinations which supplant the opposition and rivalry of the parties; enormous waste and inefficiency in the conduct of the government; failure to protect industrial and political democracy; obstruction of comprehensive and constructive plans for social and industrial betterment. Some of these, it must be conceded, are defects characteristic of modern democracy or of modern government in general;1 others are peculiar to the rapid development of social and industrial conditions in our country. But there still remains a formidable array of counts against the operation of the spoils system in our political life.

The causes of the growth of the spoils system are complex. There is no single and simple reason that will account for the pathological conditions that have arisen in our political life. Some of the reasons lie on the surface of things, and for others we must dig down deeper into the soil of national life and characteristics, and into the social order itself.

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1
See Bryce, Modern Democracies, for an admirable discussion of this topic.

-179-

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