Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/340

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investigators have laid great emphasis on the idea that overs-peculation is due largely to the formation of joint-stock companies that have no real excuse for existence except the furtherance of the personal aims of the "promoters." It is a little curious that, among the three hundred real or alleged causes of "hard times" brought to the attention of our National Bureau of Labor, the reckless creation of limited liability concerns was not mentioned. In 1886 a writer estimated that there were afloat in the English stock market fully two billion pounds of speculative securities, of which at least a fourth were mere gambling counters. It is to such a state of things that a recent law review attributes the fact that real investors now shun the stock exchange, and speculative operators are compelled to live on the plan of "dog eat dog."

The stock exchanges of this country have had a somewhat similar experience, and the self-limiting nature of the speculation fever is indicated by the fall in value of a place in the Chicago Stock Exchange of three thousand dollars within a few years. As yet few steps have been taken to restrain the incorporation of absurd or fraudulent companies. Wasteful and semi-piratical paralleling of railroad lines is encouraged; incipient railroads are preyed upon by construction companies; companies of all sorts are bound hand and foot by the contracts entered into by an initial board of directors, and are brought into existence that they may be so bound.

None of the leading commercial countries seem to be quite satisfied with the attempts they have made to remedy such evils as these. Germany allows definite payment from the corporation funds for the trouble and expense properly incurred by the men who organize a joint-stock company, but guards very carefully against the illicit gains too often made by "promoters." The provisions for registering new companies are especially stringent in all cases where a private business or factory is to be sold to a corporation organized to buy and manage it. The fullest possible publicity is sought regarding all the initial acts of a new company, and some matters where the first decision must be final are reserved for a second meeting of the stockholders. Shares may run either to "bearer" or to a particular name. The latter can not be issued for a less amount than fifty thaler per share and the former for less than one hundred thaler per share. By forbidding the issue of shares of less amount; it is hoped to make investors consider more carefully the subject of investing, and to prevent the floating of small shares in worthless companies among the class of very small investors, who are most likely to be swindled. Some companies designed to engage in what are considered especially hazardous enterprises are forbidden to issue shares of less