Weekend Talkshows Past - CBS Radio News program The Great Challenge with "Government and The Democratic Process" with Howard K. Smith moderating a discussion on the U.S. Government in a changing world. 1959.
March 12, 2011

Howard K. Smith - when journalism had an obligation to be thought provoking.

Back in the dim-distant past, there was a time when Broadcast journalism had an obligation to ask the thought provoking questions, especially during a time when the world was in a state of flux. How technology and communications were changing at such a rapid rate it caused some to question just where all of this was headed, and was it heading anywhere good.

On this program, The Great Challenge, part of the special series CBS Radio ran in 1959, Howard K. Smith moderated a panel that covered a wide range of topics. Included on this panel were several leading journalists, critics and historians of the day, including Arthur Schlesinger, Allan Nevins, Arthur Krock, Ernest K. Lindley, Dr. Elmer E. Schatschneider and Ernest J. Hughes. The subject this episode covered was called Government And The Democratic Process, and it raised several questions over government's role in our society and how it was looking at Foreign Policy. One question was posed about Bigness.

Howard K. Smith: “Does anyone feel that the tendency towards bigness in our institutions is a menace to our democratic institutions. Big Industry, Big Labor and in fact, Big Government?”

Dr. Elmer Schatschneider: ”I think Government has to be big in a time when you have so much big industry. It has to cope with this sort of thing. I think you could show that changes in the organization of the economy always, themselves in the organization of government. And I think for a reason of maintaining an equilibrium within the system. It takes a big government to cope with the kinds of problems we have.”

Needless to say, there was a wide array of answers. But it's interesting to realize that, even in 1959, the question of Big Business was just as much on everyone's mind as Big Government was - as well as Big Military, which became the memorable basis for President Eisenhower's Farewell address some two years later.

It's not that any of these issues suddenly appeared to us the last ten or so years. Over 50 is a bit more like it.

So naturally you would assume none of this should come as a surprise. Yet it does.

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