Would you like to make this site your homepage? It's fast and easy...
Yes, Please make this my home page!
Excuse me for taking so long to respond to your email. I appreciate the
trouble you went to in preparing it, and I am very glad to have the
opportunity to consider these matters.
In general, I disagree with the conclusions made by H. G. Wells in these
excerpts, and I will try to intersperse my reasons as we go along.
At 11:42 PM 10/16/98 -0400, you wrote:
>I wrote previously that I would send you the passage I was thinking of,
>written by H. G. Wells. It is drawn from the book "The New and
>OUTLINE OF HISTORY, Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind."
I had read that book; but it was so long ago, I remember little about it. I
wish I still had it, because I'm sure it would be a useful reference work.
>Apart from the argument that the
>legislature should be slow as well as sure, it is difficult to establish
>any necessity for this "bi-cameral" arrangement.
There are several reasons, and I think I just discovered a new one
myself just the other day. Sometimes established institutions, by their
very nature, eliminate problems, of which the participants in those
institutions are only dimly aware, IF AT ALL! It sometimes happens that
a problem may never arise because of the way the institution is set up,
and it never occurs to anyone that the way it is set up prevents the
>It was a little too hastily assumed in the eighteenth century that
>the commonalty would be given to wild impulses and would need
>opinion was for democracy, but for democracy with powerful brakes
>on, whether it was going up hill or down.
This had little influence in America, because EVERYBODY was of the
"commonalty." The main reason given for it by Jefferson was to break
up cabals. He even at one point suggested the possibility of the
different houses being chosen by lots, and re-chosen every few years in
order to break up cabals that had formed. Jefferson also cited other
bases on which a differentiation could be made, such as (if I remember
correctly) the ownership of a greater amount of property, etc.
Our experience in this country has been that different houses of the
legislature DO INDEED result in different points of view. The U.S.
Senate and House almost never just rubber stamp legislation from the
other branch. Conference committees are often necessary to resolve
differences. A certain dangerous piece of legislation just recently sailed
through the House, but did not pass the Senate. So, regardless of
theory, experience dictates that it does have a real function, and few
suggest that this is a bungling, bureaucratic kind of morass that
legislation must go through.
>They suggest that a community may with advantage
>consider its affairs from two points of view--through the eyes of a body
>elected to represent trades, industries, professions, public services,
>and the like, a body representing FUNCTION, and through the eyes of
>second body elected by localities to represent COMMUNITIES.
I had never heard of that one before, but it sounds like it would be very
impractical. How would you control how people were THINKING when
they were representing a constiuentcy?
>the British House of
>Commons is purely geographical in its reference. It has even been
>suggested in Britain that there should be "labour peers," selected from
>among the leaders of the great industrial trade unions.
My understanding is, the House of Lords has virtually no real political
power today. It is, I believe, merely advisory, and is truly an
anchronism, carried over from the old days when both king and
aristocracy were the real rulers of England. The English system has
evolved; ours was deliberately created (for the most part).
> They took many things for granted that we now know
>need to be made the subject of the most exacting scientific study and
>the most careful adjustment. They thought it was only necessary to set
>up schools and colleges, with a grant of land for maintenance, and that
>they might then be left to themselves.
This is partially true. The Founding Fathers were brilliant when it came
to understanding the political institutions then existing in Britain and
other European nations. But they would have needed a crystal ball in
order to tell what would be the outcomes of the form of government they
were establishing. Much of it was based on their faith in humankind.
Also, they thought in terms of establishing a democratic process, and
leaving to later generations the solving of problems that arose with those
later generations. I notice that even in the case of education and the
press, the analysis of problems in the excerpt is valid, but there is still no
solution offered to those problems that is obvious and complete. If the
work of the Founders was somewhat partial, we STILL haven't been able
to complete their work. Apparently, the work of the Founders raised us
to a higher level of democratic functioning, but we have not been able to
solve the problems brought on by that higher level anywhere near as
well as they solved the problems they were faced with.
The other advantage of a bicameral legislature that I recently
"discovered" is this: Having two houses of legislature, just like having a
separation between the legislature and the executive, tends to divide
power, and in doing so places MORE POWER in the hands of the
people. These different legislators, as well as the President himself,
must appeal directly to the American people. It is not all in one
organization, where a single group can control the whole outcome and
direct the administration of the government top to bottom. Even having
one party dominate the legislature and another dominate the executive,
while often ridiculed, has a certain balancing effect and will tend to
eliminate extremism in either branch of government, if there is a
tendency to extremism, SUCH AS WE HAVE RIGHT NOW. Having the
whole government apparatus controlled by one party, as is the case in
British politics, would remove power from the people, and place greater
power in the political parties. So, a bicameral legislature tends toward
GREATER democracy, not less, in my opinion.
>There you have it. My favorite line is "the certain prey of the great
>party machines that have robbed American democracy of half its
>and most of its political soul." This sums up my feelings about the
>dual party system that we have devolved into.
I think it could be worse, and it WOULD be worse, if we had only one