A Grammar of American Politics: The National Government

By Wilfred E. Binkley; Malcolm C. Moos | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE DYNAMICS OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT

The Nature of Democratic Government

THE late William James is said to have observed that democracy is a system in which the government does something and waits to see who "hollers." Then it does something else in order to relieve the "hollering" as best it can and waits to see who "hollers" at the adjustment.1 No one who has ever been a public official will dismiss this as merely a humorous remark, for actually it strips away the whole elaborate system of fictions with which the realities of government have long been obscured and epitomizes the experience of self-governing peoples.

For example, a municipal council is confronted with what appears to be a public demand that the prevailing diagonal system of parking automobiles on business streets be changed to parallel parking. Characteristically the council decides to proceed cautiously by enacting an ordinance that leaves parking as it has been on one side of the street but changes to parallel parking on the other side. No sooner does the ordinance go into effect than protests arise from the merchants who have parallel parking on their side of the street because the number of automobiles able to park near their businesses has been reduced. At the next meeting of the municipal council the ordinance is repealed, diagonal parking is restored, and the tumult subsides.

By the middle of the 1930's a strong demand for Federal legislation to protect the collective bargaining rights of labor led to the enactment of the Wagner Labor Relations Act. Employers, in all cases where the flow of interstate commerce would be affected, were forbidden to interfere with workers' self-organization and collective bargaining, to dominate a company union, to discharge an employee or discriminate against him because of union activity, or refuse to bargain collectively with the proper repre-

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1
T. V. Smith: The Promise of American Politics ( New York, 1936), pp. 199-200.

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