MUNICIPAL ACTIVITY IN BRITAIN 829
It would be absurd to pay for an electric-lighting plant out of the half-year's revenue. It would be silly to raise a loan to clear away a snowfall.
The practical identity of the so-called "debt" with what is called "capital" in private business is well shown by a concrete illustration taken from Does Municipal Management Pay? by R. B. Suthers (1902) :
In Manchester the corporation [i. e., municipality] own the gas-works ; in Liverpool a private company owns the gas-works. Up to 1897 Manchester had spent 1,833,000 on its works; Liverpool had spent 1,918,000. The 1,833,000 spent by Manchester is called "debt," but the 1,918,000 spent by Liverpool is called "capital." What is the difference? There is no difference except in name. The Manchester "debt" is just as much "capital" as the other. How was the Liverpool capital raised? It was subscribed in sums of different amounts by individuals. How was the Manchester "debt" raised? In exactly the same way. The Manchester corporation issue "stock." Private individuals apply for the stock. The Liverpool Gas Company issue "shares," which bear dividends according to the profits made. The "stock" of the Manchester corporation bears a fixed interest or dividend. Any surplus profit goes into the pockets of the citizens.
Of other municipal enterprises it is not necessary now to write. The main purpose of this article has been to direct atten- tion to a movement of the greatest importance, too little under- stood or appreciated in this country. Whatever may be thought of the idealism that is at the bottom of so much of it, it must be admitted that we in America should be better off and more progressive if we had clearer ideals of civic life things to work and hope for. The "What's the use?" feeling paralyzes the efforts of our good citizens, who go nowhere because they see no road.
And, after all, has not something come out of that stable at Hammersmith ?