Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/53

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43
IS COMBINATION CRIME?.

tion, combination, or "trust" organized for business purposes is a "corner" in the thing manufactured, and therefore against the written law of the land as well as the public interest. He is wrong here at the outset. Everybody who knows anything about the matter knows that to "corner" a product is to raise its price, not to the consumer, but to the operators against whom the "corner" is engineered. However disastrous a "corner" may be to the "shorts" who fight it: ultimately fatal to the schemers (who risk public indignation if they succeed or the prospect of bankruptcy if they fail in sustaining it), I have yet to learn of any permanent injury to the consumer—or to the great body of the people—resulting from the wickedest corner that ever was attempted. Without attempting any palliation of or excuse for the gamblers who stack staples instead of "chips" and shuffle values instead of cards, it is yet, perhaps, proper to suggest that even trusts, combinations, and incorporations for business purposes are of some ultimate good to the community and benefit to the bread-winner; and to point out the actual fact that, so far from raising, it is to the immediate interest of a combination of small business interests into a large one to at once cheapen the prices of its product to the very minimum margin of profit at which manufacture can be carried on. Otherwise, the crop of new combinations to be bought out would be endless. For, surely, so long as the product in which the combination deals can be manufactured at a profit, just so long will there be manufacturers. Mr. Hudson, no doubt, burns gas. But any consumer of illuminating oil can tell him that he can buy from an agent of Mr. Hudson's pet grievance, the Standard Oil Company, cheaper[1] than he could before there was any such terrible "octopus," and when every producer had his favorite jobber; and if Mr. Hudson ever sent a telegram from New York to Chicago before the days of, the Western Union Telegraph Company (which, naughty as it is, only charges twenty-five cents for ten words to Chicago), at the rate of about two dollars per ten words to Chicago, without grumbling at the positive incongruity of the price, he is a much more reasonable man than some of his readers take him to be. And to demonstrate that—whatever the immediate causes—the immediate effect of combinations is apt to be to convenience rather than to incommode the customer or client; let me allude, in passing, to (what everybody knows) the fact that the single

  1. The Standard Oil Company has so reduced the cost of the process of refining that the price of refined oil has been lowered from seventy to less than seven cents per gallon. The people who paid four dollars per capita for light now pay less than forty cents per capita, which is equivalent to a benefit to the people of this country (counting them at 60,000,000) of $216,000,000 per annum.— "New York Tribune," May 15, 1887.