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05/01/05  Democracy?s Limits


Last week, the Dallas Morning News' Editorial Board promoted Proposition-1 under the mantra of replicating our own unique federal system of government.

Replicating the modern federal system would provide us with the equivalent of a city manager.

As we all know, our American success is a result of the balanced relationship of the executive branch working with the chairman of the Federal Reserve.  

The DMN Ed Board and Blackwood proponents are constantly arguing that "can't we just be like our federal system" all pristine and non-manager like.  The reality is that we have an equivalent to a city manager at the federal level.  The chairman of the Federal Reserve acts as a manager of the federal financial system.  The purpose of the Fed is to de-politicize the financial system, to protect us from the whims of the short-term executive and political back scratching.

We tried the non-manager "Blackwood" approach at the federal level under Andrew Jackson.  We entrusted complete power over the economy to a single executive.  Jackson's personal feud with the owners of the Second National Bank (precursor to the Fed) caused him to pull all US deposits and place them in state banks.  The result was complete financial melt down. 

Under the cataclysmic results of Andrew Jackson?s regime the US congress stripped away ?management? of the banking system from the executive branch. The result was the establishment of a chairman manager of the Federal Reserve System.  The proponents of Proposition-1 believe we should ignore the results of our previous federal experiment.

The US Congress chartered the Fed to ensure that a trained professional would be running the financial system.  The president nominates the chairman and Congress provides the oversight.  The chairman reports to Congress.  This seems like a good structure.  Very, very, similar to the city council's current proposal.

The main point is that the Ed Board's view of the "pure executive" is fantasy.  It does not exist.  We tried it once under Jackson and learned too much power in the executive will result in a monarchy.  Political cartoons of his time lampooned Jackson as a king.

Our country learned a great lesson from the unbridled democracy of Andrew Jackson.  We learned that it might be a good idea to have a professional financial manager at the federal level.

I love Jackson for his embrace of the common man; however, his administration taught us an important lesson about the limits of executive authority.

Judd D. Bradbury is a management consultant in Dallas.

The following comments appeared in this month's edition of D Magazine, and are reprinted here with permission from Judd Bradbury.  The portion in blue was omitted by D Magazine:

It is entirely appropriate to argue the benefits of Jeffersonian or Jacksonian democracy when it comes to introducing an "anyone can govern" argument for the Mayor-Council plan, the Proposition 1 ballot initiative, or the unbridled democracy of ballot initiatives that drove California's financial system into the ditch. 

However, it is inappropriate to argue Hamilton when speaking about the benefits of a Mayor-Council form of government. Hamilton argued for constraints on unbridled democracy relying on the "professional management" of the merchant class. Hamilton's "talented few" were drawn from the wealthy class that he suggested had the wisdom and dispassionate foresight to implement the measures necessary for the public good. This "professional management" is the central tenet of the Council-Manager system. 

Hamilton was hardly a ballot initiative populist wanting the strength of the masses to overcome tyranny. He was the stone cold "let the professionals handle the job" sort of founding father. Today, we live in an egalitarian world of professional management that requires comprehension of billions of dollars  moving across borders in seconds and billion dollar  corporations moving in and out of cities in the blink  of an eye. 

As a city, if we choose to turn over the complex functions of running a 2 billion dollar organization to a layman, that is our choice. I assure you, Hamilton would not approve. 

Judd D. Bradbury,  President
Maverick Consulting





  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8