Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/58

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48
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ing to Mr. Hudson, however, these tendencies, laws, and rules do not amount to so very much. It is an easy enough matter to handle them. "We have only to legislate railway companies out of existence, and then enact statutes forbidding two of the same trade to combine. Then things will run smoothly. The State will hold the trackage of the late railroad companies as a highway; and every dealer, manufacturer, agriculturist, miner, will carry his product to and fro, and—there you are! No more modern feudalism; nothing but peace, plenty, and communism!

Faulconridge would not fright boys with bugs, but a moral drawn from the middle ages, by reason of its mere remoteness, appears always to be a powerful antic with which to worry the non-capitalist imagination. Any combination of like interests for business purposes—the co-partnership formed by three butter-dealers or six coal-miners to continue the business of selling butter or mining coal; the corporation, or "trust," or combination formed by amalgamation of any existing companies—is a palpable return to the days of feudalism. Thus, the present system of combinations becomes "modern feudalism." Your combinations are so large that they build up a favored and aristocratic class, like the old crown vassals. And again, these industrial combinations are hand and glove with the railways, and so form a network of capital in the meshes of which the poor man is strangled. Now, the simple facts upon which Mr. Hudson assumes to found this hue and cry are these, viz.: The normal tendency of trade to trade-centers, where it can be most conveniently handled, has its inevitable corollary in the tendency, within the trade-center, to centralization of the different branches of trade. In the middle ages the principle operated to build up such imperial centers as Nuremberg, Antwerp, and London, and the corollary to organize, within those centers, the great trade-guilds. In later years the Atlantic Ocean, the Hudson River, and Long Island Sound combined to make New York city an emporium for the deposit and distribution of the products and industries of two continents, while the merely innocent convenience of traders within that city (not any aristocratic or would-be feudal motives on their part) operated to root and group the leather interest into one quarter, cotton goods into another, oils and provisions and iron-mongery into still others. And if two or more traders in an identical staple, iinding themselves neighbors or united in a community of interest, saw fit to bind themselves into a single firm or trading company, it was no matter of conspiracy against the public weal, but the merest consideration of personal convenience and facility. When the railroads came, they found themselves obliged—,by the very charters which created them—to haul for anybody who chose to em-