Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/761

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743
TRUSTS THEIR OWN CORRECTIVE.

teen cents per pound and one half of whatever the syndicate should be able to get above that. The immediate effect of this gigantic conspiracy was that the price of copper in the United States rose from thirteen to sixteen cents per pound. But the syndicate did not take the precaution to buy up all the old scrap copper in the world, nor all the metals that could be substituted in the arts for copper. Nor did it arrange with those who had been consuming copper that they should use it in the same quantities whatever the price. The result was that the syndicate collapsed, dragging down with it one of the great banking institutions of France, ruining an untold number of individuals, and driving to suicide the man who conceived the undertaking.

The same points of weakness are apparent in the other combinations now before the public. Despite the tremendous power of the sugar trust, it has never been able to control the market for any length of time, as an examination of the prices of sugar for the years of its existence will show. The independent refiners have forced it to reduce its quotations, and later buy their plants up at a high valuation if it wished to escape competition. No sooner has that been done, however, than new refineries have been started, as is the situation at the present time. Obviously there must be an end to this procedure, even for a corporation with such resources as the American Sugar Refining Company has. The same is true of the cordage trust. So strong an opponent of trusts as the New York Commercial Bulletin said of this at the time it was at the height of apparent prosperity: "The enormous profits which the trust is now making can not but lead to the establishment of additional independent plants. These will be in as strong a position for successful competition as has been found to be the case with the independent refiners of sugar. Under these circumstances the present enormous profits made by the cordage trust will not continue." The later fate of this same cordage company is a sad but striking commentary on the weaknesses to which such enterprises are open.

It is not contended that these corrective agencies will of themselves work the downfall of the trusts. That is an impossibility under the present industrial conditions. But they will fix a limit beyond which the trust can not go. Furthermore, they will hasten the overthrow of all those combinations which seek to carry along old and worthless plants and to follow discarded processes of manufacture and wasteful methods of business. The trust mode of doing business as a means of getting large capital and realizing the economies consequent on extensive production may be a success; but as a means of practicing extortion upon the public it is doomed to failure. Natural laws, after all, are stronger than the contrivances of man.