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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 5. May, 7, 1947

Professor McHenry Speaks to Political Science Society

Professor McHenry Speaks to Political Science Society

The Political Science Society was very fortunate in securing Professor McHenry from the University of Southern California as the guest speaker for its inaugural function. The visitor, who is no stranger to the British Commonwealth, has made an extensive comparative study of political trends in both the United States and the Dominions, and he is at present on sabbatical leave with the object of surveying eleven years of Labour administration in this country.

In his introduction Dean McHenry drew attention to the fundamental differences between the United States and its Presidential system of government and the British Commonwealth, which has adhered to the more efficient and stronger Cabinet system. He outlined the historical basis of the United States constitution based as it is on an essentially 18th century philosophy as advanced by Locke, Montesquieu and Thomas Paine. Checks and balances, and divided sovereignty were to ensure forever the democratic form of government and guard the Republic from autocratic rulers. The South American Republics had on the whole accepted the example set by their big Northern neighbour with the result of Peron and Vargas supremacy in Argentine and Brazil and similar forms of dictatorship in the remaining countries of the Southern half of the Continent. The visitor made no secret of his preference for the British system based on two strong political parties with a responsible Executive sitting inside Parliament. In support of this premise he quoted examples of shortcomings such as a deadlock between the two Houses or Congress, Presidential inability after the defeat of his party in a mid-term election, the lack of Executive control over Civil Service appointments and the still important remains of the Spoil System. In favour of the Presidential system of Government, Dean McHenry contended that Congress is not a merely "rubber-stamp" which like the House merely discusses, but in the end submits to the Government on all important issues of policy due to party discipline and the all-powerful Whips. Congress can override Presidential vetoes and it jealously watches over foreign affairs. The "voice of the people" is forever audible in the lobbies and halls of Congress. (One wonders If Congressman were greatly [unclear: perturbed] or troubled by popular sentiment against the recent Anti-Strike legislation.)

Questions Too

At the conclusion of the address, questions were submitted to the speaker. It was noticeable that Professor McHenry was far less elusive in his answers than he was during his introductory remarks. Asked about the absence of a strong Labour party he countered "that in the United States class relations are nowhere nearly as stratified as in the older capitalist countries. The American working man still has a vested interest in the present mode of production. This is artificially fostered by a system of education which still enhances youth with the prospect of the easy road from shoe-shine boy to millionaire."

Although his answer was not satisfactory to all present, he admitted quite frankly that the era of unlimited expansion of American capitalism will soon come to a close.

Wallace Not Likely

Professor McHenry envisaged the possibility of a general regrouping within the two major parties, so that the reactionaries on both sides would combine in the face of combination of the progressive wings of the two parties. "Wallace is not a likely presidential candidate for 1948. He cannot command the American people's support for his attitude towards Russia and the other European democracies." Dean McHenry was then asked about the role and influence of Communists inside the trade unions. He emphasised that many Union leaders are pro-Communist but that they were elected democratically. The deduction from this must be that those men have been outstanding for their leadership and organisational ability within the Unions concerned. "It is the Communists in the main who are taking an active interest in Union affairs."

An Enlightened Liberal

In their concluding remarks the Chairman, as well as the Students' representative, thanked Professor McHenry for his interesting and enlightening address. We too wish to express our appreciation and again welcome this opportunity of meeting speakers from abroad. Professor McHenry has brought to New Zealand the views of an enlightened Liberal, today such a rarity on the American Political Scene. We admire him for his fluency, presentation and his ability to establish immediate contact with his audience, a quality the lack of which is sorely felt in the New Zealand University.

G. Warner.