Judgment of the Solons

Updated: May 3

Pp 321-325 Schneider, H. W. (1928). Making the Fascist state. New York: Oxford University Press.

The parliamentary system is the gravest and most dangerous degeneration of political custom. It constitutes a complex deviation and usurpation of powers. It is not in harmony with the origins and historic bases of parliaments. It is evidently opposed to the logical demands of the constitutional and representative regime. And what is more important, it is an obstacle to the attainment of the higher ends of the state.

In the parliamentary regime, above all as it had been understood in recent times, the Chambers exercise faculties that belong to the executive power and supplant the most essential prerogatives of the Crown. The government, in its turn, usurps the functions of Parliament and it too imposes itself on the Crown, denying it the exercise of that supreme directive and integrative function that is indispensable for the harmonious coordination of the major powers of the state. The body of elected representatives is being distorted and deprived of true liberty in the exercise of Its mandates. It is natural that under the pressure of needs created by parliamentary exigencies, there should be frequent infractions of the executive power in its judicial function.

Historically, since the executive power grew out of the royal power with the change from absolute to constitutional government, it was reserved for the Crown, of which the executive is an emanation, to set rules and limits for the executive itself. Parliament which is characteristic of the representative system, arose and displaced the ancient sovereign body that embraced the whole population of free men in order to assure a continual agreement between the laws and social aspirations and to carry on a function of financial control for keeping the action of the government within due limits, by deliberating on the laws that it must observe and acting like a political accounting body in controlling its actions. The progressive growth of its powers was intended to limit those of the Crown at a time when the Crown had the character of an absolute government, but it exceeded all logical bounds; haling robbed the monarchy of the direct exercise of executive power, it also invaded the Crown’s own field, substituting itself for the Crown in the nomination and recall of ministers and thus preventing such powers from being exercised in view of the higher needs of the country, which must certainly not be confused with those transient and contingent needs of the prevailing political parties.

Thus the principle of the separation of powers, which is the essence of constitutional government and is certainly not to be applied in a rigid and mechanical way, is being destroyed.

But even independently of all this, the parliamentary system must be condemned, because it prevents the executive power from carrying out its own activities in a durable, careful and coherent manner, in view of the higher ends which it serves. The executive power’s general interest is not the sum of particular interests and hence cannot be adequately represented by a fluctuating majority, determined by the half- plus-one rule, of the political forces they represent.

The state needs continuity and readiness in action, in its international no less than in its internal relations. This necessity is being felt more and more under present conditions of life. The complexities of international relations have a variety of influences on all fields of activity and sometimes (as for example in the highly important game of determining the rapid oscillations in exchange rates) they operate so suddenly that they must be watched and confronted almost hour by hour, which requires a strong government, free, independent, and permanent, such as the parliamentary system certainly cannot guarantee.

The coordination of the infinite internal needs of the country, arranging them in an orderly scheme based on the possibility of satisfying them, and determining which matters and functions should be emphasized, remembering that, though their present utility may not be noticeable, they may nevertheless serve distant and higher ends, all this presupposes a government above parties, not continually threatened by their possible snares.

When extraordinary events like war or a public calamity occurred, and it was felt that the future of the country in whole or in part was at stake, the directive activities continually exercised by Parliament were always recognized as embarrassing and superfluous, and it was thought necessary to reinforce the ministerial body and keep it whole. These extraordinary events are daily facts for those who fully grasp the tasks and difficulties arising in the modern life of states. The complexity of state functions and responsibilities is such today that in the face of it the tasks the state once had resemble little more than those of a modern large private firm. Hence if the state of today wants to make its way in the world confidently, it must allow itself to be guided by a strong and vigorous government that is not based on the instability or predominance of this or that party.

The principle of universal suffrage, according to which all citizens legally qualified participate with equal rights of voting in the political life of the country, is bound up with the idea that this is or should be the best means of adequately satisfying the majority of individual interests, an idea which is now opposed and supplanted by the idea that the state is a self-sufficient principle, that it is not a sum but a synthesis of individual interests and hence has its own higher and permanent ends to follow, that it is of a moral and ideal nature rather than economic and material. The almost indefinite extension of the suffrage, coupled with the fact that the numerical size of the population has reached proportions not even suspected formerly, and the fact that the functions of the state have been so intensified as to make it more than difficult to understand the essence of a political mandate, raises the doubt, the certainty, that the system of direct election of deputies to Parliament and the modest, but nevertheless discernible tendency to reject even a plurality of votes, make vain any direct effort to improve the mechanism of electoral procedure. Certainly the abolition of proportional representation, to which the most deplorable exhibitions of the parliamentary system were due, has indicated progress in this direction. Then the return to the single list {collegia uninominale) marked still further progress; for without doubt, where the undermined bases of the present order still hold firm, this system among all the systems so far developed, and in view of the political evolution of our country, offers the greatest number of advantages. But if anyone should claim that we could today be satisfied with this relative and very modest progress, he would close his eyes to the facts.

It is above all in this field that the common fallacy clearly appears of those who fall back on the constitutional order formed more than a century ago under conditions of social and political life radically different from the present. It suffices to recall that while it is becoming evidently more impossible for the greater part of voters really to know the persons for whom they have voted, and that therefore the whole illusion of free individual choice is gone, nothing has been substituted for it that in any manner guarantees that the choice fall on the least deserving and suitable. . . .

Of the powers among which the acts and the explicit sovereignty of the state is divided the greatest importance must be given now as always to the executive. It is above all in its action, whether it be in its Internal or foreign relations, that the responsibility of the state shows itself. And it is above all the need for action that gives the state its continuous coherence....

The legislative power, which determines the limits between the action of the state and that of individuals, and the judicial power that enforces these limits, integrate and in a sense reinforce the executive power, but it is in this latter that the whole life of the state, by the logical demands of things, is summed up. However, in legislation actually the initiative for the most part can come only from the executive power and this implies that the function of legislative organs really reduces itself to that of prevention, of holding to account and of approval. When the executive power becomes weakened, the action of the state is depressed, for initiative and decision in daily affairs can no longer be demanded of it. The decline of the executive power therefore means the decline of the state. And hence it is of the greatest importance to the public interest to keep the executive power high and strong, a need which is always recognized in the times of greatest cohesion, as in war, and which it would be foolish to deny in more normal times. The exercise of the executive power can only take place under the direction of a limited number of persons who constitute an organic unity, for its action must be ready, sure, unanimous, fully conscious and responsible. It is neither logical nor useful to seek the cooperation of many irresponsibles in the action of a few responsibles. Assemblies can give general norms and directions for action to which the government is committed, they may approve and disapprove its action, but they cannot and should not take part in it. Such a participation weakens its action at the expense of the state. The executive power, synthesizing the life of the state, must be committed to those who are above contingent individual interests and who by their position are always able to have an integrated view of all the various complicated problems, seeing them in their traditional, historical and ideal relations to the higher ends of the state. Therefore it can only come from on top. Even when a written constitution expressly ordains it, the executive power can only be headed by the King, that is, by the head of the state.

Without discussing thoroughly the admissibility of the principle of popular sovereignty, it is undeniable that when it is broken up and distributed among tens of millions of citizens each in turn preoccupied with the necessity of satisfying his own personal needs, sovereignty is corrupted and cannot in fact be the expression of the organic strength of the state. To seek somehow by means of the exercise of popular sovereignty to participate in the selection of those to whom the exercise of the executive power must really be entrusted, is a pretense that is contrary to good sense and the public interest.

Political assemblies by their origin and aim, must not participate in the executive power, either by directly cooperating in it or by contributing to the selection of those to whom it is entrusted....

The relations between the government and the Chambers must be dominated by the principle that the former is an arm of the Crown and not of Parliament and that in regard to its action the latter has the power of prescribing the general limits within which the government may act, approving its budgets and proposed laws and exercising a check that culminates in votes of confidence. But no more direct participation can be In order In the exercise of the functions that belong to the scope of the executive power and to the formation of the cabinet .

The principle that really as well as constitutionally the government is an organ of the Crown, by means of which and under whose responsibility the Crown exercises executive powder, and that it must in no sense be regarded as an emanation of Parliament, implies that the government itself may presume to be legitimately invested with power as long as it has the confidence of the King. The necessity, however, of enjoying the confidence of the Chambers and of keeping a continuous and effective initiative and freedom of action, further implies that the Cabinet may, whenever it pleases and on whatever provocation, demand a showing in one or both branches of Parliament with respect to itself. . . .

The judge of the situation is always in any case the Crown, to whom alone the recall and the nomination of ministers must belong, in fact as well as in theory. A vote, though it is not sufficient to make the Cabinet lose the confidence of the Chamber, may, in view of the particular circumstances, induce the sovereign to recall the mandate it enjoys. In any case the vote may be renewed without necessarily postponing it to the next day when the vote of lack of confidence is an order of the day, and without allowing the government to demand its postponement. But the King too, may invite the government to demand an expression of its attitude in the other House of Parliament, This provision is linked up both with the principle of the equality of the two Houses of Parliament and the other principle that, in deciding a crisis, the sovereign has a real power of initiative, direction, and decision....

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