The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, March 22, 1912, Page 3, Image 3

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MARCH 22, 1912
for tlio place. Possibly, the recall may sorvo as
a sifting process with which to eliminate those
unworthy to wear the ermine. In fact, it would
more than justify itself if it removed from the
list of aspirants all lawyers who lack the cour
age to do their duty regardless of consequences.
If there is any position in which we need rigid,
uncompromising uprightness, it is upon the
bench, and the recall, instead of menacing the
independence of the judiciary, is more likely to
improve the character of those who occupy
judicial positions.
With the recall, official terms may with safety
be made longer.
And speaking of the length of terms, the ten
dency is toward making an executive ineligible
to re-election. His duties are so responsible and
his influence so extended that he should be free
to devote his best energies to public affairs, and
no one can devote his best energies to the public
if his vision is clouded by political aspirations
or his judgment pervef ted by personal considera
tions. The state needs a quickened conscience
and an unbiased judgment in its executive and
ineligibility to re-election largely contributes
toward both. A governor may misuse the
patronage at his disposal if his heart is bent
upon another term he is much more apt to
than if his sole purpose is to win an honorable
place in history by fidelity to his oath of office.
The constitution which you are preparing
will designate the means by which the electors
will exercise their sovereign Dower at the polls.
It may be taken for granted that you will em
ploy what is known as the Australian ballot,
which insures secrecy. While we admire the
courage displayed by those who openly announce
a position and accept whatever responsibility
may come with the announcement, we can not
be blind to the fact that, under present indus
trial conditions an open ballot jeopardizes the
occupation of the employes when the employer
is unprincipled enough to attempt to force his
political Views upon those who work for him.
The secret ballot is the only means that we now
have of safeguarding voters who are industrially
dependent upon others In this connection, I
may add that the reasons for secrecy do not ex
tend to persons acting in a representative capa
city. On the contrary, secrecy is intolerable in
a representative. His constituents have a right to
know what he does, and, therefore, most modern
constitutions require a roll call on all measures
passing a legislative body, and usually the con
currence of a majority of all the members
elected to the body not merely a majority of
those present at the time is required for the
enactment of any measure. This rule may well
bo extended to party caucuses. Under our sys
tem the party is inevitable, or seemingly so,
and the party caucus often determines the action
of all the members of the party, although the
decision of the caucus depends upon the vote
of a majority. Under such conditions, there is
no good reason why the rule applied to legisla
tures -should not apply to the caucus. It is oven
more necessary because the desire to preserve
the 'appearance of party harmony may prevent
a roll call in a party caucus, unless the roll call
is compulsory. Publicity is both a prevention
and a purifier; the constituent can not have too
much light thrown upon the conduct of his repre
sentative. The election boards should be bi-partisan, be
ginning with the judges who preside over the
polling place and following up to the highest
canvassing board of the state, where the returns
are inspected and the result finally declared.
Both sides should be represented in no other
way can an honest count be secured. And a bi
partisan board, to deserve the name, must be
composed of members selected by the parties
which they represent. A bi-partisan board
whose members are chosen by one side, is bi
partisan in name only. Experience has shown
that where the dominant party selects the repre
sentatives of the' minority party as well as its
own representatives, the minority representatives
do not, as a rule, reflect the wishes or protect the
rights of the minority party. The minority repre
sentatives are too often chosen because they have
already been corrupted or because they are open
to corruption the word corruption not being
used in this case to suggest actual bribery, but
rather to describe that perversion of purpose
that renders one unfit to speak for those whose
spokesman he is assumed to be.
I beg to commend to you two federal laws
recently enacted, one prohibiting contributions
from corporations and the other compelling
publicity, before the election, of the names of
individual contributors and limiting the amount
that candidates can expend in their own behalf
The Commoner.
and thero is no reason why a limit should not
Do placed upon the total amount that can bo
expended by others on behalf of a candidate.
And while on the subject of publicity I suggest
that .newspapers should bo required to make
public tho names of owners, and the names of
creditors also where tho indebtedness is largo
enough to control the paper's policy.
The primary is only second in importance to
the election itself. Tho voter is limited in his
choice to tho candidates named on tho ticket,
and tho naming of the candidate is, therefore,
a matter which must be guarded with care Tho
age of the boss is passing and thero is a con
tinuing advance here and throughout the world
toward the popularizing of all the methods of
the government. If it be true that governments
derive their just powers from tho consent of tho
governed, it necessarily follows that parties
derive their just authority from the consent of
the voters of the party. Legislation should bo
authorized which will guarantee to tho voters
the right Co control the selection of tho candi
dates who aro to enjoy tho distinction of repre
senting the party, and provisions should also be
made for nomination, by petition, of those who
desire to run independent of tho party organiza
tions. The primary should includo an expres
sion on presidential candidates and an expres
sion on postmasters would probably bo respected
by the president in making appointments.
Tho primary laws should make provision for
an expression of tho voters on questions as well
as upon candidates, and laws should bo autho
rized dealing criminally with candidates who
pledge themselves to specific measures and thon,
by official act, repudiate those pledges after
election. Platforms should either be made bind
ing or they should be prohibited. A platform
has no meaning unless it is intended as a pledge,
and a violation of such a pledge involves
a greater degree of moral turpitude than tho
offenses against property rights which we now
punish severely. A pledge publicly given by a
candidate, and a platform promise not openly
repudiated, should be binding in law as well as
in conscience.
You now have a statute embodying what is
known as "THE OREGON PLAN," which
enables the voters to pledge legislators to vote
for the popular choice for United States senator.
While it seems certain that congress will soon
submit a constitutional amendment providing
for the direct election of senators, still as a mat
ter of precaution this safeguard should not be
surrendered until a constitutional amendment
is secured.
Taxation is one of tho prominent stibjects with'
which those entrusted with government have to
deal. Other questions come and go but the
question of taxation remains. People may dis
pute about the methods to bo employed in the
levying and collecting of taxes, about the amount
to be raised and the manner in which it should
be expended, but revenue must come in or the
wheels of government stop. When we find and
employ a perfect system of taxation, wo shall
have gone a long way toward perfection in gov
ernment until then we must approximate as
nearly as we may to justice.
Adam Smith lays down a principle for the
guidance of those who frame tax laws, and no
better rule has been proposed, namely; that citi
zens should contribute to the support of the
government in proportion to the benefits which
they receive under the protection of the gov
ernment. This is the ideal which the wise and
just are struggling to embody in law. It may
be taken for granted that you will consider such
subjects of taxation and employ such methods
as will give no just cause for complaint or par
tiality or favoritism in apportionment, assess
ment or collection. Tho income tax seems likely
to be employed by the federal government as a
means of raising national revenue but that is
no reason why it should not also be employed
in the state. It is not double taxation to levy
an income tax by both state and federal govern
ment. ' We must contribute to both govern
ments and it is not material upon what par
ticular kind of property the tax is levied, pro
vided it is so levied as to impose upon each citi
zen his proper share of both taxes. Wo do not
call it treble taxation when we pay upon the
same piece of property a certain amount for tho
city a certain amount for the county and a cer
tain amount for the state neither can we call
it double taxation when we add another burden
to the same income for the support of the
general government. The same can be said of
a tax on inheritances.
Franchises are a proper subject of taxation.
Being a grant from tho public thoro is special .
reason why they should help to bear the public
burdens. Corporations, likewise, are being moro -and
moro considered proper subjects of taxation,
and tho mere rlijht to incorporate is a. valuable
gift to those who take advantago of it. Tho
corporation relievos the stockholder of a part
of tho liability borne by tho man who doos busi
ness as an individual or as a member of a part
nership. This limitation of liability Is an ad
vantage worth paying for. The corporation also
protects a business venture from tho interrup
tion and embarrassment caused by the death of
tho individual or tho partner. Tho corporation
confers numerous other favors which aro
propejrly taxable.
You might with propriety leave some latltudo
to cities and counties In tho matter of taxation.
If they are allowed to experiment with different
methods the public as well as the communities
will have tho benefit of the experiment, and only
by experiment can tho relative merits of systems
be determined. Provision should, of course, bo
made for equalizing tho basis of assessment so
that taxes for the larger communities can bo
equitably distributed regardless of dissimilarity
in local systems.
Tho corporation Is becoming so important a
factor in business life that its consideration will
demand of you both care and courage. Hero .
moro than anywhero else you will have to stand
an an impartial arbiter between the rights of
the whole peoplo and the interests of a class.
Powerful pressure can always bo brought to
bear in favor of concentrated capital. A million
dollars invested in a single corporation exerts
an influence more potential than ten times that
sum invested in a hundred separate enterprises.
The first thing to understand is the difference
between tho natural person and the fictitious
person called a corporation. They differ In tho
purposes for which they are created, In tho
strength which they possess, and in tho re
straints under which they act. Man is tho
handiwork of God and was placed upon earth to
carry out a Divine purpose; the corporation is
the handiwork of man and created to carry out
a money-making policy. Thero is comparatively
little difference in the strength of men; a cor
poration may be ono hundred, one thousand,
or even ono million times stronger than tho
average man. Man acts under the restraints of
conscience, and is influenced also by a belief in
a future life. A corporation has no soul and
cares nothing about tho hereafter.
Tho corporations created by law naturally
divide themselves into two classes, quasi-public
corporations and purely private corporations.
Tho corporations that engage in public busi
ness, such as a municipal corporation in a city
and tho transportation and other public service
corporations in tho state, must bo kept under
rigid regulation. It is absurd to say that a cor
poration created by the people for tho advance
ment of the public welfare should be left to do
as it pleases, regardless of tho injury which may
result to the public. All public service corpora
tions should bo under tho control of officers,
boards, or commissions empowered to prevent
the watering of stock and the issuing of fictitious
capitalization. All franchises should bo for a
definite period, and that not a long one. A
perpetual franchise is abhorrent to every sense
of justice, not only because it Imposes burdens
on generations yet to come, but also because it
is entirely one-sided No human being can look
ahead ono hundred years and estimate tho
value of a public franchise not to speak of
ono thousand years or longer. If a body of
men secure a public franchise that runs for a
long period, they can give it up at any time if
they find It unprofitable but the peoplo can not
so easily correct a mistake if they sell It at
too low a price. The maximum limit for such
franchises should not be more than twenty-five
years, and tho charter should reserve the right
of regulation and control by the government.
It should also reserve the right of public pur
chase at the physical valuation. At most, no
higher sum should be given for a franchise than
the corporation paid for it.
In some instances a maximum dividend, a
dividend sufficient to keep tho stock at par, has
been fixed in the case of public service corpora
tions and such provision rests upon sound
reasoning. If it is argued and It can be with
reason that tho dividends may sometfme fall
below a reasonable rate, this difficulty can bo
remedied by permitting railroads, street car
companies and other public service corporations
to collect, over and above tho dividend per
mitted, a surplus sufficient to make good any
shrinkage In dividends that may occur in bad
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