Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/55

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45
IS COMBINATION CRIME?

for the material upon which she operates it. Mr. Hudson appears to infer that the smaller the manufacturer, the better off the consumer and the wage-worker; that the smaller he is, the smaller his prices to the one and the higher his wages to the other. I do not claim that the larger the shirt-dealer, the higher the prices he pays to his seamstresses. I do not claim that the soulless individual becomes soulful the moment he finds himself incorporated (the epigram is the other way). But I do claim that the converse is not the fact. I have not had Mr. Hudson's opportunities, perhaps; but, so far as the laws of human selfishness and greed go, I happen to know that the larger the principal the more secure the wages of the wage-worker, and the scale thereof at least not necessarily or even probably lower.

The fact is (whether Mr. Hudson will ever become aware of it is another and less important consideration), that the very first thing a successful manufacturing combination does, and must do, is to put the price of its product down to a figure where it will not pay for designing speculators to form new stock companies for it to " crush " at a hundred or more cents on a dollar. For, did it keep up its prices, either one of two things would inevitably happen: either new factories would be started, or the inventive genius of this people would invent a substitute for the product they furnished, and so ruin the combination beyond resurrection.

So rapidly have prices lowered, indeed, in the past, and so constantly are they still falling, that earnest economists have begun to wonder what the end would be; and even the labor agitators have turned from the (to them) seemingly abstract question of hours and wages, as between the employer and the employed, to find in this the supposed greatest peril of the latter. It even appears that one Powderly, a chief of one of the so-called "labor movements," has made it the text of certain of his harangues. And, with what Dickens would call perhaps "a fatal freshness," Mr. Hudson himself (who has just left denying the right of industries to centralize themselves because the first thing they did after centralization was to put up prices), on the next page, says, "Mr. Powderly has inveighed against the sin of cheapness, and given his assent to the principle of combination to raise prices, on the assumption that such combinations involve an advance in wages." (Though to what purpose Mr. Hudson has preserved this excerpt his context fails to discover, since good faith to his own argument, if not to his readers, should have led to its suppression.)

But Mr. Hudson rattles on as follows: "It is an old truth that commerce, founded on the basis of distributing the staples of life at the least cost, is the highest practical benevolence;