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Growth of Presidential Government in Europe

  • Charles E. Martin (a1)

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The Unites States of America was the only country that came through the World War with its fundamental principles of government unchanged. War necessitates a powerful and, in a parliamentary sense, irresponsible executive. Wars cannot be won by deliberate assemblies nor by executives harassed by such assemblies. That great national emergencies call for a dictator—a powerful and politically irresponsible executive—the Romans discovered two thousand years ago, and we of the twentieth century have re-discovered. To win the war France set up a dictator, and his name was Georges Clémenceau : to win the war, Great Britain set up a dictator, and his name was Lloyd-George; to win the war the United States set up a dictator, and his name was Woodrow Wilson. To have attempted to carry on government under old parliamentary forms would have been ruinous, for warfare requires quick and decisive action—the very thing deliberative assemblies lack.

The proposition is submitted that a government based upon a separation of powers lends itself more readily to concentrated and politically irresponsible executive power than do other forms of government. The parliamentary system is essentially a union of powers. Its differentiating characteristic is an intimate relation between the executive and the legislative branches, a relation so intimate as to amount to union. The executive can at all times be questioned and criticised by the legislative, and can be brought to task for its political failures. That results in responsibility and responsiveness, two sound principles of government. But under the strain of war the parliamentary system of responsible government broke down.

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Growth of Presidential Government in Europe

  • Charles E. Martin (a1)

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