Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/758

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

TRUSTS THEIR OWN CORRECTIVE.
By GEORGE A. RICH.

THE test of a theory is to predict what will happen. When the cry was first raised a few years ago against the so-called trusts, and legislation of one kind and another was proposed, there were those who declared that if these combinations were left alone they would prove their own worst enemies. In other words, there were inherent weaknesses in the trust mode of doing business which, so far as the public was concerned, took all the teeth out of it. But the politicians and legislators brushed this contention aside as so much "rubbish" and "mere theory," and proceeded to attempt by statutory enactment what an early pope had tried by bull—that is, to stay the operation of a natural law. As to how well they succeeded, the failure of the Government to enforce the anti-trust law, and the rapid increase of these combinations in the face of popular opposition, constitute a sufficient answer. In the meantime the prediction, which they so curtly rejected, is receiving its verification in the developments now taking place among those great organizations of capital and industry.

The most effective of these corrective agencies are the unequal conditions brought about by the union of weak establishments with strong ones and the certainty of competition. The original object of the combination was to prevent disastrous competition. To be sure, the apparent success of some of the chief ones has dazzled the minds of business men and led to the formation of others for the sole purpose of realizing larger profits at the expense of the public. But an examination of the history of most of them will show that they grew out of bitter contests which threatened disaster and ruin to those engaged in the industry. This movement toward consolidation dates in this country from the close of the civil war. The return of capital to the normal channels of industry following that led to an overstimulation in many branches. Up to that time the productive capacity of the country had not been equal to its capacity of consumption. With manufacturers it had been a race for possession. But that point had been passed. Possible production was in excess of possible consumption, and it became with many a question of divide or fight. From the point of the manufacturers the preliminary combinations which followed were open to two serious objections: They could not be established by contract, because the common law treated such agreements as against public policy, while the statute law made it a misdemeanor to enter into them. Furthermore, where the law was evaded and such agreements