The bill before the congress to incorporate the Rockefeller Foundation opens up many social, educational and scientific problems. Its objects are stated to be "to promote the well-being and advance the civilization of the peoples of the United States and its territories and possessions, and of foreign lands, in the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge, in the prevention of suffering and in the promotion of any and all the elements of human progress." The bill names as incorporators of the foundation John D. Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Fred T. Gates, Starr J. Murphy and Charles O. Heydt. The amount of the endowment is not known, but it is assumed that it will be very large, as Mr. Rockefeller has already given fifty-three million dollars to one board of much narrower scope.
There should be nothing but sincere appreciation of Mr. Rockefeller's generosity and public spirit. It is quite absurd to fancy that he has sinister motives or any other wish than to do good with his wealth. This would be the right attitude even if the money had been obtained by improper methods. But there are probably not many men of affairs in America whose transactions if so fully known would be less open to blame. Secret rebates and harsh competition are the charges. There are not many clergymen or statesmen who refuse to accept rebates from the railways and competition to the limit of the law is the common method of business. As a matter of fact, there has never been a man of business who has done so much to abolish competition as Mr. Rockefeller, who will probably be looked upon hereafter as the principal promoter of socialism.
Mr. Rockefeller's corporation for charity and public service is less original and less imposing than his business corporation. It is insignificant beside the Roman Catholic Church in the middle ages or beside what is now being done by every state for charity and education. Mr. Rockefeller's wealth would scarcely support the public schools of the country for a single year. None the less a corporation of this kind will for a time have considerable power and there is some reason to fear that it will not be wholly beneficial.
Society is concerned more about the consumption of wealth than about its ownership, so long as the ownership is not used outside the ordinary methods of business. It is obvious that wealth is consumed more profitably in promoting the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge and the prevention of suffering than along the paths which lead to the divorce courts. But it is not certain that it is better to divert capital from business enterprises, tie it up in real estate and lands exempted from taxation, and use the income permanently for charity. What may happen is shown by the Roman Catholic Church, which in the middle ages acquired naif the wealth of the nations and instead of contributing to the advancement of civilization became on the whole a barrier to progress.
Other corporations for public and charitable purposes are controlled by a board representing a church, the educational interests of a community, or the like, and have some definite object. This new corporation represents and is controlled by the Rockefeller family and its scope is unlimited. An emergency fund for the promotion of civilization appeals to the imagination, but it will not be easy to administer it. We have had recently experience of two such funds with more limited