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NOV 241920

The American
Political Science Review

Vol. XIV NOVEMBER, 1920 No. 4



Bryn Mavrr College

Under the happiest of conditions it is scarcely to be expected
that democracy should result in a high degree of efficient govern-
ment. For the very object of democracy is to give expression
to desires and impulses which can only with difficulty be brought
into harmony. Whether taken in the sense of the direct govern-
ment of the people or in the sense of government by representa-
tives of the people, democracy involves the reconciUation of
conflicting views, resulting after much discussion and delay in
the adoption of a compromise more or less unsatisfactory to
both sides. In the formulation of its policies democracy is thus
reduced to what is feasible and expedient in view of the present
state of pubUc opinion, while in the administration of its laws
it must depend upon the executive ability not of its ablest citizens
but of those who have succeeded in winning the confidence of
their constituents. Moreover, in spite of obvious duplication
of functions it is important that government be kept decentralized
in order that the individuality of local areas may be preserved
where national imity is not essential.

On the other hand efficiency is concerned with the attainment
of the objects of government by the best and most direct means



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and with the least possible cost. It seeks to put into effect the
^ wisest and most advantageous policy irrespective of the prior
• approval of the people. In the administration of the law it is
concerned with securing ability regardless of public confidence
in the particular official; and it has no fear of the concentration
of power necessary to secure unity and directness of national

In the normal times of peace those who believe in democracy
as a principle of government have no hesitation in sacrificing
some degree of efficiency to secure their ideal. There are definite
moral advantages attached to self-government which make
efficient government a distinctly secondary object. Law and
order must, indeed, be maintained in the state, and certain con-
ditions of public health and convenience secured; but whether
these ends shall be attained in the largest measure and with the
least possible expenditure of effort and money is less important
than the fact that the means taken approve themselves to the
citizen body by whom the agencies of government are set up
and maintained. The educational value of the public discussion
of measures, the training in self-restraint which comes from the
necessity of adjusting conflicting views, the sense of the respon-
sibilities of citizenship, are extrinac benefits which are regarded
as more than counterbalancing the ordinary degree of misman-
agement and extravagance which accompany popular govern-
ment. Under normal conditions, therefore, the problem of the
statesman is to obtain as good government as is compatible with

But in time of war it is clear that a wholly different principle
must prevail. The problem is then one of coordinating all the
forces of the nation for the single object of providing a more
effective fighting machine. The advantages of self-government
must then be subordinated to the preservation of the national
existence; the delays incident to discussion and debate must
be overcome, and a unity of administration must be obtained
even at the price of a temporary executive autocracy. For the
sake of self-preservation it may be necessary for the state to
suspend temporarily those very principles of individual liberty
which the war is fought to maintain for the nation as a whole.

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The purpose of the present paper is to point out the important
changes which were made in the political institutions of the
United States and Great Britain in order to adapt them to the
needs of a national fighting machine, and to examine the special
difficulties I which were confronted by the United States at its
entrance into the war by reason of its more rigid form of con-
stitutional government. In the demands which it made upon
democratic governments the war operated as a supreme test
which revealed flaws in the machinery not otherwise noticeable.
Many of these flaws will be foimd to be inseparable from democ-
racy as a working form of government; others, however, will be
found to be defects in the organization of the government whiclJ
may be remedied without loss of its democratic character. *

Modem war is of such a character as to give a distinct initial f
advantage to an autocratic government. For wars have ceased
to be any longer a contest merely between the armed forces of
the belligerents. The distinction long made by international
law between combatants and non-combatants, while it still holds
good in theory, has for all practical purposes been regarded as
obsolete. The recent war has made it clear that armies are
powerless in the field unless backed by the entire industrial (
organization of the coimtry. The manufacture of arms and
ammunition, the building of ships, the production of increased
supplies of food, and the distribution of the raw materials of
industry according to need, are all essential elements in the larger
plan of campaign by which the deadlock of the battle lines is to
be broken. Under such circmnstances it .is clear that prepared-
ness for war consists, not merely in the maintenance of a trained
army, but in the control over and the coordination of the national A
resources so as to permit of their immediate adjustment to the ^
needs of the fighting forces.

In this respect the state socialism of Germany gave her a
marked advantage over her more democratic opponents. The
control exercised by the government over the raw materials of
industry, over transportation, and in some degree over credit,
greatly facilitated the task of transforming a nation at peace
into a nation at war. It put at the disposal of the government


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the organization and the clerical machinery which made it
possible to mobilize the industrial resources of the country with-
out the delay and confusion experienced in coimtries whose
industries had never been subjected to direct state* control.
Moreover, once the war had broken out, the advantage of autoc-
racy consisted in the absence of parliamentary responsibility
and in the prompt and ready obedience of a people accustomed
to discipline and command. The freedom of the executive in
Germany from control by the Reichstag made it possible to
carry through plans without the distraction incident to questions
and interpellations, and without the disorganization resulting
from the creation of coalition cabinets and war committees.
Martial law could be put into effect without raising the issue of
the violation of fimdamental personal rights guaranteed by the
constitution. Restrictions could be placed upon freedom of
speech and of the press and a system of rationing food and other
necessaries of life could be adopted with the assurance of coopera-
tion on the part of the people to whom governmental regimen-
tation was a famiUar policy. It may well be questioned whether
the initial advantages in point of organization possessed by
the German government were not more than offset by diplo-
matic blunders which a government in closer touch with public
opinion might have been kept from committing, and also whether
the advantages of disciplined obedience on the part of the people
were not counterbalanced by the lesser degree of resourcefulness
and endurance resulting from the paternalistic policies of the
government. But it would seem that, at least in respect to the
^prompt and effective mobilization of men and of material
resources, the more autocratic government of Germany had
a distinct advantage over its opponents.

The diflBculties confronting Great Britain and the United States
upon their entrance into the war were due in part to the character
of their governmental organization and in part to the indi\id-
uaUstic traditions of their peoples. Both countries were obliged
to enlarge greatly the executive powers of the government, to
assume an imaccustomed control over the industrial life of the
coimtry, to create an enormous administrative staff, and to

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impose restrictions upon the free activities of the citizen body.
In addition both countries were faced with the problem of creating
land equipping new armies for which no provision had been made
in advance. As between Great Britain and the United States,
the advantage lay with the former in respect to the facility with
which its form of government Could divest itself of its democratic
character and create the unity of control essential to efficiency.
rThe United States found itself with a government whose powers
were divided between the national government and the forty-
eight governments of the separate states, while in the national
government itself a form of organization prevailed which divided
responsibility between the legislative and executive branches of
the government. On the other hand the United States had the
advantage of observing, while a neutral, the experience of Great
Britain in meeting the emergencies created by the war, and was
thus enabled to act with far greater promptness and efficiency
when its own turn came to mobilize its men and resources for •
the conflict.

The chief political problem before the British government
during the course of the war was to secure the fullest measure
of unity of control in the formulation of policies and in their
effective execution, and at the same time to maintain the confi-
dence of ParUament and indirectly of the people. The advantage
of the British system of cabinet government as against the checks
and balances of the American system was manifest from the
outset. So long as the confidence of ParUament could be main-
tained the cabinet was able to run the government with a free
Ihand, restricted neither by the jealousy of Parliament nor by the
constitutional limitations peculiar to the United States. The
control of ParUament remained in abeyance, but nevertheless
ready to be exercised should a general feeling arise that the
cabinet was deficient in its task. At the same time the authority
of the cabinet at London extended to aU parts of the kingdom
alike, and no question could be raised as to the possible encroach-
(ment of its decrees upon the powers of local self-government in
the different sections of the country. No constitutional diffi-
culties were encountered in the way of the assumption of
unlimited powers on the part of the government. •

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The outbreak of the war found the Liberal party, supported
by the Irish Nationalist and Labor parties, in possession of a
majority in Parliament. A truce was entered into with the
Unionists, which resulted in the suspension of parliamentary

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