To the Editor:
As a conservative, I find the stress placed on parliamentary institutions and governmental checks and balances in William J. Newman’s article “Liberal Government for ‘Backward’ States” (March) is more in keeping with the ideas of Locke, Burke, or Montesquieu than with the politics of so-called liberals. I am willing to admit, however, that this may be a matter of opinion, but what is obviously not a matter of opinion is the asinine theory advanced in the article that parliamentary institutions can be exported willy-nilly around the face of the globe.
Centuries of tradition have imbedded parliamentary government into the way of life and thinking of the people of England, the United States, and Western Europe. With the exceptions of Israel and possibly India, there is not a single one of the new nations—or the colonies about to be made into nations—emotionally, morally, or mentally equipped to organize and maintain a parliamentary government. The leaders of both Israel and India are heavily indebted to English and Western European social and political ideas.
But Mr. Newman doesn’t have to go to Africa or Asia to see how ineffective parliamentary ideas are in the hands of people mentally unequipped to use them. Since the early 19th century the forms of parliamentary government have existed in Latin America. It is not necessary to even consider the major conditions in these countries such as constant revolutionary turmoil, vicious dictatorships, or mob rule as it today exists in Cuba either. Take only one minor point which a parliamentary government operating with reasonable technical efficiency would erase: the wide margin which exists between the passage of social legislation in the most stable of these countries and their actual enforcement.
San Francisco, California
Mr. Newman writes:
Mr. Lipton’s letter does not seem to me to advance the argument very far. He uses the old cliche about the “export” of parliamentary institutions. Whoever suggested “exporting” parliamentary institutions? (What does the phrase mean anyway? That America send a shipload of retired Congressmen to, say, Nigeria?) Is it impossible to conceive that parliamentary institutions can develop in new areas, as in fact they have? Then we are told about centuries of tradition which embedded parliamentary institutions. How many centuries make a tradition? Must it be centuries at all? (If so, then America has yet to qualify.) And if everything is embedded in tradition, how can change be explained? Mr. Lipton, therefore, must claim that India is indebted to England for its social and political ideas. So it is possible for a “backward” state to change and modernize? What can happen once can happen twice. Finally, Latin America is brought out to trot through its paces. Overlooking the fact that I did not say liberal government would work everywhere all the time, Latin America is a good example not only of the futility of dictatorship, but also evidence that liberal government is still a possibility—indeed the only possibility for stable government.