Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/79

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75
COMMERCIALISM

lic conscience. The existence of the wide-spread sense of justice secures attentive hearing to critics of "commercialism" when they denounce the methods of corporations; ex parte statements by prosecuting attorneys and statements by magazine writers are accepted as embodiments of undisputed fact. The development of a public conscience has not been accompanied by equal development of the judicial temperament.

Whether or not the methods employed by some corporations in efforts to overcome competition measure up to the popular conception of the golden rule is not open to discussion. In the original form that rule is "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"; and it would seem that the obligation is on all alike. But the popular conception is that the command is binding only on the corporations and that all individuals in the community are "neighbors." Yet corporations are merely copartnerships, so that in their case, as in the case of the individual, the standard of the rule is the love of one's self, which brings into consideration the question of self-preservation. A man is justified before the law if he take the life of another to protect his own or that of any under his charge; he may take life to protect his property; equally in business affairs, a man is justified in doing things for self-protection, which under other conditions would be unjustifiable.

The owner of a cross-roads shop, who has built up a good trade by close attention and honest dealing, would be thoroughly justified in bitterly antagonizing a rival who had secured the old stand that he might reap where he did not sow. If, however, success have made him negligent so that he serves his community indifferently, he should not complain against the invasion; he alone is responsible; he had thrown away his estate.

Both conditions are familiar. Corporations find themselves at times as the old, still energetic shopkeeper, fighting to hold his own; at others, as the sturdy newcomer invading an area occupied by sluggish men, satisfied with small business and large percentage profits. To illustrate.

Several men competing in the manufacture of some product combine, reduce working expenses and with the money thus saved secure competent scientific aid for improvement of methods. Few processes are discovered, cost of production is decreased, waste is prevented and by-products are utilized; the result being eradication of rule-of-thumb competitors while the innovators gain control of the business to their own great profit and to the great advantage of the consumers. They remain incessant in efforts to better processes and to make new industries; but eventually the earlier patents expire. Other men, in view of this, have been investigating and have discovered improvements in methods, to become available with expiration of the early patents.