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5. Friends whom you admire sometimes see public questions differently than you do.

6. Members of your own family may hold opinions which you cannot accept.

7. Lecturers may present opposing views.

8. News reels may influence your judgment by the way they show events which actually happened.

9. Posters and billboards may play up some new thought on either side of a question.

10. Different groups to which you belong may totally disagree with one another.

Somehow out of all this information you must get enough good advice to help you form sensible opinions. Such opinions are of the highest importance in a democracy, for they guide the people and the people guide the government.


In some States the voters take a direct part in making laws. Some of the States have provided ways by which the people themselves can propose State laws. In those States permission is given by law to any large enough group of voters to sign a petition asking for a desired law, and so to begin the process of lawmaking without waiting for action by their representatives in the State legislature. Then if enough names are signed to the petition, the qualified voters of the State must be given a chance at an election to vote for or against the proposal. If more than half the votes at the election are favorable to the proposed law, it goes into effect. If a majority of the voters vote against it, it is defeated. By this plan, known as the initiative, the people (who have the final authority) are actually using part of that authority to make their own laws, instead of delegating all of it to their representatives. They are expressing their wishes directly.

Certainly they will need plenty of information about the proposed law before they can vote wisely for or against it. If the people of a State which has an initiative law are not alert and ready to give such proposals thorough study

and to vote upon them intelligently, the "rule of the majority” may be used by a smaller number of citizens to initiate and pass unwise laws. The initiative passes back to the people part of the authority usually delegated to representatives, but it also puts on them a great responsibility not to neglect that authority.

Many States make use of another plan by which the people may have a direct part in lawmaking. This is known as the referendum, and is much more commonly used than the initiative. The referendum plan provides that a law which has been passed by the State legislature may be referred back to the voters of the State either at their next regular election or at a special election, so that they may vote whether to accept or reject it. That law does not go into effect unless it gets a favorable vote of the people. Nearly half of the States give their citizens this power of referendum in some form. Perhaps your own State does. Sometimes a question, instead of a law, may be referred to the people. For example, the people of a city may be asked to vote whether they want a new street car or bus system, or a new boulevard cut through a crowded district, or whether the government shall borrow money to do certain things. In such cases the people are again expressing their wishes directly.

In some States the voters may recall (remove from office) an official before his term of office ends. Under this plan, if a large enough number of voters sign a petition, the question of the removal of the official must be voted on. If he loses, he is said to be “recalled.” The new official to take his place may be chosen at the same time or voted for later at an election. The details of this plan are different in different cities and States.


Such direct decisions on important questions put upon the voter a serious responsibility. In the initiative, the referendum and the recall the citizen does not delegate his authority to someone whom he regards as more wise and


more experienced than himself. He uses his final authority directly himself. For small government groups this may work well, just as the New England “town meeting,' at which everybody in the town acts as his own lawmaking representative, works well as long as the population is small. Certainly it is a democratic process of government.

In any case it is very important that the citizen keep himself or herself well informed about public questions and public officials.


You be the judge:

CASE 1. Mr. X lives in a city which has a law permitting the recall of city officials. He finds that the mayor of his city is being threatened with a possible recall. He does not know why, but decides that the easiest thing for him to do is to vote as his neighbor tells him. He then forgets all about it until voting time when he and his neighbor cast their votes against the mayor.

Do you think Mr. X has the right idea about this important question? What would you have done if you had been in his place ?

CASE 2. Three new citizens, Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z, are discussing their right to vote for officials in the coming election. Mr. X says that if the voters of the county, city, State, and Nation do not vote, they are not helping to give us a government “by the people." He thinks that if they do not vote they are not worthy of their citizenship and should be made to pay a fine, as if they were lawbreakers.

Mr. Y does not agree. He says that it really does not make any difference whether a citizen votes or not, since a single vote cannot possibly change the result.

Mr. Z argues that it makes little difference for whom he votes, so he may as well vote for an old friend who is a nice fellow but stupid.

Do you agree with any one of these men? Discuss their points of view and see what your group thinks about them. CASE 3. Suppose that Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mr. C are candidates for the office of mayor of your city. You find that each one has certain qualities which you like. Study the qualities of each as given below and decide for which one you would vote.

Mr. A
High-school education,
Bad judgment.
Fair public speaker.

Mr. B
Eighth-grade education.
Good judgment.
Poor public speaker.

Mr. C
College education.
Excellent judgment.
Very popular.
Good public speaker.

Other things to discuss in your study group:

1. Discuss the meaning of the quotation printed at the beginning of this chapter.

2. Perhaps the law of your own State makes provision for the initiative, referendum, or recall. Ask your study group leader to help you find out about this.

3. If your State has laws for the initiative, can you think of any law which you would like to initiate by petition?

4. It is suggested that your group elect or appoint a committee to draw up a petition requesting some desirable law. Ask the committee to present their petition to the study group When the group has discussed the petition, find out how many members are willing to sign it. Perhaps some members of the study group can show why the petition should not be signed. Some more words which the student should understand:

accurate-correct, true.
adequate-fully equal to any need.
billboards—large signboards.
boulevard—a fine city avenue or broad street.
contradict-deny the truth of another person's statements.
conversations-informal exchange of thoughts through spoken

encourage-give someone the courage or desire to do something.
enlightened well informed.

ewerted-used forcefully. ignorant—untaught, lacking in knowledge. initiatemake a beginning, set things going, introduca. initiative_legal right reserved by the voters of some States to

start the lawmaking process themselves, without waiting for

their representatives to act first. issues-questions up for decision on which there are different

opinions. lectures speeches on chosen subjects. legislators—members of lawmaking groups. point of viewman argument seriously presented in a public

discussion. posters-printed statements or pictures intended to be fastened

in public places. recall_take away the right to hold office. referendumlegal right reserved by the voters of some States to

have the last word on acts of the legislature and other public

questions by voting directly on them. reject-refuse to accept. securitysafety. stupidhaving a very dull mind. thrifty-eager to save money or things of value. violate-break.

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