Any practical scheme of railroad control is likely to be based upon a compromise. The different interests involved are so conflicting that it will not do to attempt a solution from any one standpoint exclusively. The direction which legislation is to take can not be decided by a mere consideration of complaints against the existing system, whether well-grounded or otherwise. We must also consider what other systems have been tried, and what evils they have involved; what lines of treatment have been undertaken, and how far it has been found possible to carry them out. It is not a question what we would like to do, so much as what we actually can do.
The community requires four things of its railroad system:
1. That it shall afford sufficient facilities to meet the wants of business. In other words, there must be enterprise in building new lines, and in keeping the old ones up to a high standard of efficiency.
2. That the charges, as a whole, shall be as reasonable as possible. If they are higher than those of other countries, or higher than is necessary for the support of the railroads, the business development of the community will be retarded.
3. That there shall not be arbitrary differences in charge which force business into unnatural and wasteful channels, or cripple one man for the enrichment of another.
4. That there shall be as little waste of capital as possible, either by corruption, extravagance, or want of business skill. This is not quite so vital a matter as the other three, but it is one which we can not afford to leave out of account.
No system of regulation is ever likely to be devised which shall secure all these results. Free competition, as we have tried it in