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The Causes Affecting the Structure and Organization of Public Bodies


§ 115. A comparison of the several states of Europe (or states representing European civilization) from the point of view of structure brings out such a multiplicity of forms, existing and extinct, that we find ourselves obliged to begin_ with a consideration of the historical grounds of this diversity of structure.

What, for example, is the reason that in France and England the functions of the central national authority have for centuries past been vested in a stable centralized state, in which no sub division or diffusion of the supreme authority, in the sense of a subdivision of sovereignty, is traceable ; .while in Germany on the other hand, the wearisome advance toward national unity has been content to leave the sub-states their sovereignty, at first with the fuller measure of sovereignty they enjoyed under the Confederation, and afterwards with the diminished measure of autonomy which they possessed under the Union, of which a good share has had to be conceded to the newly constituted Imperial authority ? Again, what is the reason, I ask, that Italy, immediately on emerging from the earlier disunion of its petty states into a reconstituted national unity, was able, as contrasted with Germany, to achieve at a stroke the finished unity of the entire nation, with complete suppression of the previously existing sovereignties ; while on the other hand the Swiss Confederation, with a country and population no greater than a German princi pality, such as Baden or Wurtemberg, is still far from having achieved the unity of such a German principality, and even fosters the relatively great independence of its constituent can tons as a characteristic and essential source of strength ; and the modest measure of centralization hitherto attained by the Con federation in the constitutions of 1848 and 1874 has only with great difficulty been wrested from the traditional sentiment of particularism ? _ And what is to be said of the Austrian Empire— the latest exponent of the time-honored velleity for a Roman world-empire —which still holds in union (or rather has but now united) wide dominions and diverse nationalities, the union of which has, during the past generation, wavered between the necessity of an absolute or a relative. disintegration and the possibility of a greater measure of consolidation ? Foremost among all that goes to explain these differences stand the great number and variety of historical conjunctures, and the peculiar historical situations of the different peoples.

§ 116. Sober rationalistic reflection alone, without regard to the conditioning historical circumstances, will never be able to satisfy itself that there is any sufficient reason why these differ ences do or should exist. The great result of a development of peoples and of states is worked out by the combined action of many forces, both helping and hindering, and the outcome is necessarily a different one in each particular case ; indeed, the very substance and purpose of the movement—the development of the nation—is itself of a mutable and fluctuating nature. Only if we take this fact as our point of departure shall we come to appreciate that in this field the force of special circumstances must, in each case, prevail over the forces that make for the norm of greatest expediency.

But from these considerations it is clear that, as concerns this particular point, the destiny of the English, the French, the Germans, the Swiss, is a " destiny " in much the same sense as is the life-lot of any individual. That is to say, the helping and hindering circumstances encountered in the outward conditions of life are, at least in some degree, qualified by the intrinsic character of the peoples themselves. Or even if this be dis puted, it will at least have to be conceded that the course of outward events has reacted upon the intrinsic characteristics of the people (as e. g., habitual political centralization has acted upon the character of the French, or excessive political sub division on the character of the Germans), and we shall there fore, in any case, come back to the fact that the specific character of a-people determines the peculiarities in structure of its politi cal organization.

On considering from this standpoint the relation in which the individual states of the German .Empire stand to the federal state as constituted today, we find that, owing partly to habitua tion to the traditional form of political organization, partly to the desire for an immediate control of the local administration, the newly constituted imperial government has been vested with only such powers as are indispensable in order to secure for the German people the necessary degree of cohesion over against the other great nations.

And in the relation of the Swiss cantons to the federal authority of the League, there crops out at every turn — and all the more saliently that the traditional political unit is here so diminutive—a great and effective particularistic aversion to fed eral-national institutions. And this state of affairs seems to be a faithful expression of the national character, for in no other country is such thoroughgoing provision made for the control of the course of public affairs by the popular wish, at least as concerns a restrictive control.

§ 117. We are therefore able to formulate the proposition : In like measure as any people has achieved its own unity in its struggle with external and internal obstacles, will the aggregate of its political functions take the centralized or the decentralized form.

Only we shall have to add that the concept of a "people" as here used, is itself an historical category and is accordingly of a shifting nature (cf. vol. i. secs. 329 et seq.). The Swiss nation has arisen out of a number of smaller " peoples," who even to this day—obstinately tenacious of old-fashioned ideas and opinions—feel themselves to be distinct peoples ; but taken as a whole, the Swiss are, as a nation, rather to be com pared to the Suabian nation than to the German. The German nation of today is after all but an historical datum of the present period, and is neither in prospect nor in retrospect to be looked upon as an immutable and indissoluble unit.

If we take a still broader field, so as to comprise within our view that comprehensive republic which is an aspiration of the past and of the remote future alike,—which includes within itself several great heterogeneous nationalities,—we are met by still further special modifications, whose purpose is to reconcile the diverse tendencies of unionism and separatism. In Austria this diversity of nationalities is the occasion of various, partly experimental, arrangements and understandings between the whole and its parts. In Switzerland the discrepancy between the German and the Romance nationalities contributes its share toward the difficulties which the traditional separatism of the country entails on the federal commonwealth.

It is still an open question how far it is practicable to con struct a homogeneous commonwealth out of diverse nationalities, even where external circumstances favor, and where the foreign elements are inconsiderable both in quantity and in degree of diversity.

§ 118. But after having in this way allowed the widest scope to historical circumstances and to peculiarities of national char acter as factors in determining the structure of the common wealth, it will after all appear that, on the basis afforded by these historical circumstances, the great factor of simple expedi ency must have its effect. This factor will always, in every land and people, make its claims heard, and will prevail. It is this factor, with all its tactful sagacity, that must ever prevail, both in the present and in the remoter future, in its struggles with the essentially mutable historical situation. It is this element that gives occasion for improvement and innovation in the manage ment of political affairs both local and general,—for the change or abandonment of methods as the progress of knowledge may direct. And finally, this factor is most facile in accepting sug gestions from observation of- the institutions of foreign states. Indeed, the varied historical development of different states and countries is itself, even, an outcome of this expediency of insti tutions conforming itself to the pressure of the peculiar situation in each particular country. And it is precisely the discrepancy which exists between the organization handed down by history and that struggle for practicality which is latterly making so great a stir, that has led to an intelligent appreciation of the basis on which this factor of expediency rests. It is precisely this international character of the modern progress of knowledge and of the movement for practicality that has brought about a cer tain uniformity of type in the methods of administration in all countries, as contrasted with the diversities of national character.

How is it possible for the system of petty administrations under the cantonal autonomy of Switzerland to hold its own against the modern demands for centralization ? How is the German principality's traditional jealousy of its sovereign powers to be reconciled with the ever-increasing requirements of national life in the direction of national institutions under imperial control ? No answer to such questions as these is possible without a discussion of the factor of expediency and practicality, which supplies the motive for the one tendency or gives support to the other.

§ 119. The prime factor bearing on the question of structure and organization is the simple fact of size.

It is possible for a single commune, especially under the stimulus of the latest improvements in means and methods of intercourse, to attain such proportions, in population and in pop ular wants and capacities, as will call for the performance of functions that are ordinarily required only by a group of popu lous communes and circles [Kreise]. The municipal commune of Berlin has functions to perform such as nowhere else in the Kingdom of Prussia fall to the share of a civil division of lower rank than a province, and, indeed, through the latest legislation it is in fact constituted a province.

On the other hand, there are many village communes so small as to be unable, both on the score of size and of strength, to support the usual institutions of a municipality, and which are therefore compelled to unite for these purposes with neighboring municipalities.

Conversely, the requirements in the way of magnitude, due to practical exigencies of various public establishments, vary with the technological character of the different establishments in question.

The diversity of practical requirements and demands on this ground is analogous to the difference that exists between whole sale and retail business in productive industry.

This point merits more detailed examination.

§ 120 There are certain special branches of the public busi ness for which this analogy holds, strictly and in detail,—for which the relation is not simply that of analogy, but is in fact identity of principle.

The post and the railroad are typical of this class.

These not only belong to the general class of undertakings which require a large investment of capital, and which in order to be employed to full advantage must be organized in a single consolidated system and be the exclusive purveyors of the public wants they are intended to serve; they constitute a genus of their own within this general class, inasmuch as it is their purpose, provided for in their material requirements, to cover a very large territory and so lessen the distance between men and goods as far, as possible. This purpose they accomplish all the more effectively the greater their extension and the more thoroughly consolidated their management. It may even be maintained that the trend of development in this direction in the case of these means of communication is not limited by national boundaries,--: that the ideal in their case is a unified international system.

The consequence of this peculiar industrial character is that the post and railway system always expands as far as the bounds of the most extensive political organization that lies within the State's jurisdiction will permit. These means of communication imme

diately fall, or tend to fall, under the management of the central authority, wherever the modern process of consolidation of petty states takes effect. And these branches of the public service are the part that first drops out of public control and falls into private hands whenever the structure of centralized national public service falls into decay through the overgrowth of constituent structures vested with sovereign power. But even when under private management, the technological character of these branches of industry requires their organization on an equally extended scale.

These branches of the public service, moreover, have for some time past shown a tendency to an international organization, pushing boldly forward over the boundaries of great empires and nations, on the road to an international union, — e. g., the Inter national Postal Union, the beginning already made toward a uniform system of railway service and railway legislation.

§ 121 The reasons for vesting the control of the really funda mental institutions of a people in the most comprehensive political organization into which that people enters at the time are of an analogous nature, though mixed with considerations of other kinds.

The system of defense is clearly made more effective by a consolidation of the national forces and an orderly disposition under a centralized management. In the latest forward step taken by Germany ( and by Switzerland ) this reconstruction of the military system occupies the most prominent place in the programme of national regeneration : a union of the scattered forces of the people into a single consolidated force.

Viewed from the standpoint of practical efficiency, there can be no question of a subdivision of the military power, in the sense of surrendering the control of particular fragments of it to minor political divisions. Wherever anything of this kind occurs it can only be of the nature of a concession to insurmountable histor ical circumstances.

Apart from the technological advantage gained by this con solidation, its great importance as an element of national strength lies in the moral force of a sense of national unity, of which no other form of expression is so adequate and so effective as a united national army.

The requirement of centralization in the administration of justice is not equally uncompromising. As contrasted with the material mechanism of the army, the essentially intellectual struc ture of the administration of justice proceeds, in its transition to the centralized form, more slowly and by a greater number of intermediate stages. Hence a greater length of time is apt to elapse before the most expedient degree of consolidation is attained, in the case of this than in that of the other institutions spoken of. Special ( local ) laws and systems of law may survive for generations after the unification of the military sys tem has, under the heavy pressure of necessity, been perfected. But it is only that the tendency toward centralization on the part of the administration of justice is more pliant; the tendency is no less distinctly present here than elsewhere.

. For this there are two reasons.

In the first place —in spite of all the tenacity of the par ticularist spirit—the influence of national unity must con tinually make for an ever more thoroughgoing uniformity in the administration of justice, because it will in the long run prove insufferable for a politically united people to accept more than one award as the truth in any given case, and because the consciousness of a common national life, a social soli darity of all the members of the nation, grows ever stronger and more pervading with the growth of improved means of communication.

In the second place, when a judgment reads, " in the name of the king," it imparts to the decision a superior sanction that removes it from the petty sphere of village affairs, and so gives it a character of impersonal generality that virtually works a change of venue from the immediate neighborhood of the inter ested parties.

§ 122. The case is different as regards the system of public instruction.

Here the plan of organization and gradation is very similar to that of the state itself. The grades in the school system rise one above another in close correspondence with the gradation of the classes of society to whose wants they minister. The lowest and broadest stratum, the elementary schools, corresponds to the lowest and broadest stratum of society, to that portion of the population which is specially designated the " people " (" popular schools ") L Volksschulen]. Towards the apex the breadth of the strata dwindles, to correspond with the diminishing breadth of the upper social strata to whose wants the higher grades of instruction minister. So that the very apex of the pyramid, the high-school system, meets the least considerable demand.

The greater the breadth of a given grade in the school system, the more does it approach the broader substrata of the political system in its plan of organization ; thus the elementary schools resemble the communal system, in so much that the extended need of elementary schools—being sufficiently great to afford both adequate demand and adequate means of support for such a school within the limits of a single commune—relegates the management of this grade of instruction to the communes as a matter of course. For a school of a higher grade the demand as well as the means of a commune are insufficient, unless it be an exceptionally strong one. For a high school, except in the case of the largest cities, the needs and the means of a single commune are still less adequate. Accordingly, the high school and the university regularly become a part of the business of the central organization of the state. Besides this, there are some of the larger towns that support academies, provinces that sup port technological schools, etc.

There is still another special reason why the highest institu tions of learning should continually more and more gravitate toward the control of the central authority, even in cases where the local organization might be large enough and strong enough to employ and to support them. Precisely the highest organ of control which a nation possesses is the only one that is capable of occupying a standpoint sufficiently high for the adequate administration of its highest schools. The lower we descend in the scale of political stratification the greater becomes the dan ger from influences which tend to impair that intellectual freedom which is essential to the best scientific work.

But it happens here, just as in the case of the administration of justice with its system of higher and lower courts, that the ideal nature of the institution makes possible a longer continued compromise with inherited particularist methods than is practica ble in the case of those great institutions of peace and war that rest on a system of material appliances, whose physical character makes a correspondingly tangible demand for a centralized man agement.

§ 123. The above discussion of the functions devolving on public bodies has led us step by step from the sphere of what may be called national industry on a large scale to that of national industry of a retail character.

What is it that is counted to the credit of the small industry in production ? There are certain industrial and socio-political advantages. First, the close relation between individual interest and the fac tors of production, such as is possible in a small establishment ; whence results a corresponding care and economy with regard to the expenses of the business and the quality of the work done. Second, as viewed from the social standpoint, the subdivision of industry into a great number of small establishments gives rise to a greater number of independent entities, which, as con trasted with the centralizing tendencies of the large industry and the harsh disparity between the large capitalists and the prole tariat, creates a large and powerful middle class.

In both of these respects it is possible to find something anal ogous in the field of public administration.

In the former respect there is the notable instance of the administration of poor-relief.

The freedom of movement of modern life, and more especially of the modern proletariat, constantly urges the transference of the poor-management of any country from the hands of local authorities to the national administration. The petty casuistry as to the precise obligations of the different local units, as also the manifest over-taxing of particular ones, has often suggested the desirability of such a reform of the poor-management as would place it directly in the hands of the state. But projects of this character have uniformly been ' rejected. There is always the danger that the local organization having charge of the poor-relief will use no economy in the management of resources, with the gravest consequences both morally and financially—the waste of public means and the attraction of paupers.' The commune therefore remains the body with whom the responsibility and the discretion in matters of poor-relief immediately rest, since here alone we can expect to find the requisite solicitude and personal knowledge coupled with an economical use of the necessary means. Management of the poor-relief by means of a central ized system of officials is entirely out of the question. It is only in those matters connected with the poor-management from which this financial and ethical difficulty is absent that the larger political organizations properly can take a hand.' § 124. As to the second point, it has been insisted on with great frequency, especially of late, in the course of the struggle for political liberty and popular participation in the management of public affairs, the solid substructure of a vigorous and effective communal organization is indispensable to any sound national political life. The oft-cited example of Englarfd is well known. It is also well known that local self-government in England, through the ascendency given it by the people's his torical development, has retained such a degree of vigor as to have held its ground for a long tune in the struggle against the centralizing tendency of the time ; and this result is by no means due solely to superior efficiency on its part in serving the public needs.

It is therefore to be remarked that there are certain branches of the public service, which, in point of technological adapta tion, readily admit of being administered by the central author ity, but which still are everywhere administered by the commune simply because they afford a field of activity for the latter, at the same time that they admit equally welt of being managed by the local body.

The care of streets and thoroughfares, as well as their con struction, repair and lighting, is always the business of the communal administration of the locality whose needs they serve.

It is otherwise with the local police. The management of this branch of the service may fall to the local administration or to the central authority, according as the dominant view is or is not the one above indicated. The greater the difficulty of the task, the more its adequate performance becomes a matter of more than local interest, and of importance to the nation at large, the more does the inclination toward a national administration of the police come to prevail. Hence we find the latter method adopted for large cities, the former for smaller towns and villages.

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