WE MUST BAN RE-ELECTION
Robert R. Young, Chairman of the Federal Railway Progress, Ohio Railways
Delivered at the Financial World Annual Report Awards Banquet, New York City, New York, October 28, 1952
This is the year of a Faint glimmer of Truth in Politics. Embarrassed by the discovery of two questionable political funds, both candidates for the presidency have bared their incomes.
Our country was started by placing limitations on government; that is what the Constitution is, a comprehensive plan for the regulation of government. But the politicians of both Parties have been reversing this -- taking the limitations off themselves and putting them on the people.
If our Republic is to survive we must unseat these new Tyrants. Like all Nature we must adapt or die. It was only the means to eternal freedom that our Fathers left us in the Constitution.
"Trust no man, but only the Law, watch over and review it," they warned.
That light is still burning, but odiously. The fault is in us. We have failed to keep it clean. In our bewilderment, we have gone off after a Plumed Knight.
Just as we have thrice been disappointed in the man who should have been elected, so can we be in the man we elect. The only thing that is permanent is the Law. Let us vote for the man who will most jealously implement the Law.
Mr. Smith has graciously retorted to my outline six years ago of:
A Truth in Politics Act to match the Truth in Securities Act, clause for clause- an independent body of citizens to enforce it. That proposal was quickly amplified by two others:
Bill to strip the Legapoliticians (political lawyers) of their monopoly of Government, and third,
Bill to ban re-election.
The almost insurmountable obstacle to this legislation is that it is directed against those who must enact it. The influence of Legapoliticians in both Parties is such that, despite all the recent influence, not one of 48 Bills introduced in this Congress to limit corruption has so much as been reported out of Committee, nor is there a single concrete proposal for one in either Party's Platform.
I was aroused long ago by the incredible abomination of government, far beyond mink coats and petty larceny. I pointed to the reason' over-representation of lawyers in government, making it easy for pressure on the Executive to corrupt the Legislative and Administrative in devious ways that cost the taxpayer not millions, but untold billions. It is doubtful if any man, today, is strong enough to reverse this tide of pollution without radical new Law. When more than half of all those in government, from the precinct up, are lawyers there must be a reason for it other than a desire for public service. And this is said in all respect to an honorable profession honorably practiced to the glory of lawyer Lincoln.
Do you know how many lawyers there would be in Congress if our Government were truly representative by occupations? Less than two, instead of three hundred and ninety-three. It is, bitterly, "a laugh" to call our most important body of investigation and legislation The House of Representatives.
Would we not be better off with 393 bankers in Congress, or 393 barbers? Certainly, the training we get would be no more professional.
And if twenty-five thousand per cent over-representation were not enough, the legal profession should be shorn of political power for no less than four other reasons all related to their own Law of Agency. No man can serve two masters.
Our laws should not be made by those who profit out of their multiplicity and complexity.
They should not be enforced by those paid to evade them.
Our collections and disbursements, our appointments to office, our swelling subsidies, our controls, our tariffs, should not be tinder the dominant influence of a profession which can take a bribe and call it a fee.
Nor should our trust be put in the one profession which has exempted its records from legal subpoena, while the rest of us are expected to submit.
Is not the very training of the Lawyer to view the right as the side that is best argued, the wrong as the side to be proven right for the highest fee?
Most lawyers in government have partners back home in both Parties, thus to protect their clients in any political weather. Some withdraw from their firms when they accept public office but work closely with them against the day of their return. Law firms are like families, commanding the first loyalty; a loyalty one cannot be rid of flitting in and out of office.
Examples of some of the things I am talking about are legion. In the field of foreign policy, that travesty of funeral errors, both Parties are led by a duet of sometimes-lawyers, sometimes-statesmen (Mr. John Foster Dulles and Mr. Acheson, for example) whose partners privately and confidentially serve for fees a multitude of foreign governments whom we are asked to favor with men and materials, no partisan questions asked. If they do not like what I say, they have no need to put themselves in the position which requires me to say it. And, if our Presidential candidates or the Bar Association, our trustees, do not put our puzzled sons and our gutted resources above the level of this nonsense, is it not time for the plain citizen to speak up in these atomic days?
We can no more expect self-reform in such a Legapolitical System of lawyers and the creatures of lawyers, that pollutes equally from the City Hall to the State House, than we could have expected Richard Whitney or Samuel Insull to have purified their industries. Those reforms were not left to the conscience but to the Truth in Securities Act and to the Public Utilities Holding Company. And, believe me, those thorough housecleanings left no loopholes. Badly as those Acts were needed to curb the arrogant abuse of power, they were not nearly so needed as are the three Acts proposed here. Those Acts were aimed only at our money; these, I propose, are aimed at our freedom as well as our money.
Once we have thrown the lawyers out of our Temple, as we will, how are we to control their less pernicious successors? That remedy, too, was outlined some years ago in Railway Progress (annual subscription $3 if you will forgive me, Mr. Smith). It was, simply, a ban on re-election.
It is fundamental that so long as elections can be made to pay in devious ways and can be bought out of the public treasury, they will be bought out of the public treasury. Each new crop of politicians becomes bolder. The measure of political success is re-election. The price of reelection has become laxity in the treasury and in the conscience. Anyone who goes into politics as a career must make these compromises with himself, or be reconciled to defeat by someone of superior laxity.
If the members of Congress were truly a cross-section of our occupations and experiences, men who vied with each other for the honor of best serving their country for, say, a single six-year term, as we would all be proud to do, do you think for one moment we would be robbing our soil to destroy our potatoes, or cringing before Cartels in Labor. And would this election, then, make such earth shaking difference? No! Those tyrannies, this "last chance" election, arc the certain consequence of our insane Legapolitical system of re-election.
Those three Bills, then, Ladies and Gentlemen, add up to the prophetic proposal made on that night six sorry years ago. Spelled out a little further:
We must strengthen the laws against the purchase of nomination, the purchase of election, and the purchase of candidates for election; an election promise must be made as binding as a security offering prospectus. We must also hold the office holder's contempt for his oath to support the Constitution to criminal account.
We must charge the F.B.I. with the duty of uncovering the office holder's unreported income -- far more important than his reported income. Currency in circulation has not zoomed to $30 billion just to make it easy to pass the plate on Sunday. We must drive men with legal conflicts, past, present or future, out of elective office for favors have long memories, and partner loyalties are deep seated. The two-way traffic between jobs in leading law firms and key appointive positions in government must also stop.
And above all, we must ban re-election.
There, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a poor little country boy's Platform we can dedicate ourselves to, whoever is elected. Until we do, our sons will have no security. When it is done, in the Olympics of the unending generations, we will have relayed to them, well-tended, Liberty's eternal light.