Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/May 1888/Is Combination Crime?
|IS COMBINATION CRIME?|
WHEN, a few months ago, announcement was made, in despotic opulence of mural decoration, that Mr. Barnum's and Mr. Forepaugh's circuses had pooled their attractions under a single tent, the American small boy lodged no protest, nor did he invoke the statutes of this republic against the dangers with which its institutions were threatened. But when whisky, or coal, or cotton-seed oil, or prunes, or beeswax, propose to adhere in happy family compact, the occasion is not allowed to pass without jeremiad on the perils of this commonwealth and the departure of the liberties of this people.
In a paper entitled "Modern Feudalism," in the "North American Review" for April, 1887, I understand Mr. James F. Hudson to suggest that any old-fashioned ideas as to the economy of large producers over small ones, and supposed consequential security of wages, greatest good of the greatest number, etc., which may still obtain in the community, are survivals of the dark ages, and without place in the enlightened civilization of this continent; and to assert that any combination of corporations or large manufacturers or producers for manufacture or production of a single staple, which shall purchase the interest or business of smaller manufacturers or producers, is a menacing danger, not only to the consumer, but to the State. Mr. Hudson has nothing to submit as to any possible small competitor who might perhaps be willing or even anxious to be crushed out "for a consideration" rather than assume all the chances of himself crushing out the larger competitor. Nor do I find him discussing the question as to what interest it is to the consumer whether the product he consumes be manufactured or quarried by a small concern or a large one. His propositions, however, are sufficiently startling to the old-fashioned reader of what once was the science of political economy to warrant, I think, a passing notice in the pages of "The Popular Science Monthly."
Mr. Hudson, to begin with, is of opinion that any incorporation, combination, or "trust" organized for business purposes is a "corner" in the thing manufactured, and therefore against the written law of the land as well as the public interest. He is wrong here at the outset. Everybody who knows anything about the matter knows that to "corner" a product is to raise its price, not to the consumer, but to the operators against whom the "corner" is engineered. However disastrous a "corner" may be to the "shorts" who fight it: ultimately fatal to the schemers (who risk public indignation if they succeed or the prospect of bankruptcy if they fail in sustaining it), I have yet to learn of any permanent injury to the consumer—or to the great body of the people—resulting from the wickedest corner that ever was attempted. Without attempting any palliation of or excuse for the gamblers who stack staples instead of "chips" and shuffle values instead of cards, it is yet, perhaps, proper to suggest that even trusts, combinations, and incorporations for business purposes are of some ultimate good to the community and benefit to the bread-winner; and to point out the actual fact that, so far from raising, it is to the immediate interest of a combination of small business interests into a large one to at once cheapen the prices of its product to the very minimum margin of profit at which manufacture can be carried on. Otherwise, the crop of new combinations to be bought out would be endless. For, surely, so long as the product in which the combination deals can be manufactured at a profit, just so long will there be manufacturers. Mr. Hudson, no doubt, burns gas. But any consumer of illuminating oil can tell him that he can buy from an agent of Mr. Hudson's pet grievance, the Standard Oil Company, cheaper than he could before there was any such terrible "octopus," and when every producer had his favorite jobber; and if Mr. Hudson ever sent a telegram from New York to Chicago before the days of, the Western Union Telegraph Company (which, naughty as it is, only charges twenty-five cents for ten words to Chicago), at the rate of about two dollars per ten words to Chicago, without grumbling at the positive incongruity of the price, he is a much more reasonable man than some of his readers take him to be. And to demonstrate that—whatever the immediate causes—the immediate effect of combinations is apt to be to convenience rather than to incommode the customer or client; let me allude, in passing, to (what everybody knows) the fact that the single powerful ownership of the telegraph lines of the United States has resulted in the steady improvement of the service (the sending of four messages at once upon a single wire and in opposite directions being not the greatest of these improvements). Perhaps Mr. Hudson thinks that these improvements would have been more patriotically used if the inventors had employed them to break down, instead of to aggrandize and strengthen, the "monopoly." But unless Mr. Hudson dreams of a paradise where inventors seek not to be paid, are not stimulated to activity by hope of reward (if, that is, he writes for his contemporaries and not for an ideal republic), he must be aware of the impossibility of legislating away the inducements to human industry or the instinct of men to prefer worldly prosperity and bank accounts to poverty and dependence. Had these inventions been used to break down existing companies, the result would have been finally the same. They would have been purchased by the strongest purse. But the inventor would first have been ruined. But Mr. Hudson, for one, still writes. Such propositions as that there is not a dollar of capital in the United States which does not represent somebody's labor and somebody's self-denial, or that every dollar which accrues in profit to-day to the railroads or other great corporate interests of this country represents from two hundred to three hundred dollars paid directly, and in cash, to the wage-workers (the very men for whom Mr. Hudson assumes to speak)—such propositions, I say, do not deter him in the least, nor do I anticipate that they ever will. If the corporations of the United States (chartered by the people of the United States for transportation, manufacturing, and other purposes), in endeavoring to keep abreast of the commerce and trade of the people of the United States, have grown to such enormous proportions as to attract the envy and enmity of those not holding their securities, I respectfully submit that that is no reason why those corporations should be punished, or their interests wrecked, embarrassed, or confiscated, Mr. Hudson to the contrary notwithstanding.
The fact—the truth is, that (however it may be in other countries) the accumulation of wealth and centralization of commerce in great combinations has never, in the United States, been a source of oppression or of poverty to the non-capitalist or wage-worker. The greatest oppressors of the poor, to the contrary, are not always the largest corporations. It is quite as likely, for example, to be a small Chatham Street haberdasher (who himself struggles against the bottom prices of his next-door "puller-in"), as a Broadway furnishing company, who pays a starved seamstress three cents apiece for making shirts, and holds a chattel mortgage on her sewing-machine as security for the material upon which she operates it. Mr. Hudson appears to infer that the smaller the manufacturer, the better off the consumer and the wage-worker; that the smaller he is, the smaller his prices to the one and the higher his wages to the other. I do not claim that the larger the shirt-dealer, the higher the prices he pays to his seamstresses. I do not claim that the soulless individual becomes soulful the moment he finds himself incorporated (the epigram is the other way). But I do claim that the converse is not the fact. I have not had Mr. Hudson's opportunities, perhaps; but, so far as the laws of human selfishness and greed go, I happen to know that the larger the principal the more secure the wages of the wage-worker, and the scale thereof at least not necessarily or even probably lower.
The fact is (whether Mr. Hudson will ever become aware of it is another and less important consideration), that the very first thing a successful manufacturing combination does, and must do, is to put the price of its product down to a figure where it will not pay for designing speculators to form new stock companies for it to "crush" at a hundred or more cents on a dollar. For, did it keep up its prices, either one of two things would inevitably happen: either new factories would be started, or the inventive genius of this people would invent a substitute for the product they furnished, and so ruin the combination beyond resurrection.
So rapidly have prices lowered, indeed, in the past, and so constantly are they still falling, that earnest economists have begun to wonder what the end would be; and even the labor agitators have turned from the (to them) seemingly abstract question of hours and wages, as between the employer and the employed, to find in this the supposed greatest peril of the latter. It even appears that one Powderly, a chief of one of the so-called "labor movements," has made it the text of certain of his harangues. And, with what Dickens would call perhaps "a fatal freshness," Mr. Hudson himself (who has just left denying the right of industries to centralize themselves because the first thing they did after centralization was to put up prices), on the next page, says, "Mr. Powderly has inveighed against the sin of cheapness, and given his assent to the principle of combination to raise prices, on the assumption that such combinations involve an advance in wages." (Though to what purpose Mr. Hudson has preserved this excerpt his context fails to discover, since good faith to his own argument, if not to his readers, should have led to its suppression.)
But Mr. Hudson rattles on as follows: "It is an old truth that commerce, founded on the basis of distributing the staples of life at the least cost, is the highest practical benevolence; while devices to rule commerce by the suspension of competition, and to exact arbitrary profits from the masses, are the extreme of selfishness and oppression. The universal nature of this truth was perceived when the world emerged from the mediæval system of economics, but it seems in danger of being forgotten. This is illustrated by the criticism of Mr. E. P. Alexander, the most recent writer on the railway question, that those who hold competition to be the only just measure of profits in any industry are years behind the age in comprehension of the science of the railway question."
Whatever there may be beyond platitude in the above is pure invention. The element of "the least cost" as parcel of the definition of "commerce" is certainly novel, and as interesting as it is novel. And certainly, too, the remainder of the sentence—from the words "the universal nature of this truth" (which truth?—Mr. Hudson has alluded to several) onward—is an extremely remarkable statement to come from the pen of a writer who assumes to deal with economical questions and matters of social science. The allusion to Mr. Alexander is equally childish, and without bearing upon the matter which we believe Mr. Hudson claims to be discussing; unless, indeed, he thought it necessary to show, in passing, how thoroughly he had failed to comprehend the question of American railway systems, to the discussion of which Mr. Alexander has lately contributed a most admirable monograph. When Mr. Alexander used the words dragged from their context as above, he was pointing out how the question of modern industrial competition had long since ceased to involve simple problems of competition in getting business alone; how it at present includes also the element of the cost versus the price of doing business at all—that is to say, the value of the opportunity to do business at all, as against the actual outlay in cost necessary to do the business brought to the party offering to do the business at all (which element, everybody—who knows anything of the matter at all—knows to be not only a very serious and a very practical one, but actually the paramount one, under present conditions). (As others besides Mr. Hudson may be ignorant of Mr. Alexander's meaning just here, I may explain that, to the railway, the value of doing a competing business, of keeping its trains running and so perpetuating its charter, is naturally always a larger consideration than the mere question of a profit—is, in fact, the most vital consideration that could be named. Or, should the question present itself differently: a bankrupt railroad is worse than no railroad at all. It can run recklessly and cheaply, since unable to respond in damages for lives or property injured or destroyed. And yet, were competition the only rule by which railways were operated among themselves, this very bankrupt road could force every neighboring road to regulate itself by its own tortuous procedure. For, just as a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, so the best railroad in the country can be no better than the worst, if competition and nothing but competition is to be the rule.)
But with all earthly matters Mr. Hudson will have nothing but competition. He will not hear of such a thing as a combination. He proceeds: "But the very question at issue is whether they (i.e., these old ideas of competition) are not more in accord with the essential principles of nineteenth-century democracy than those who are turning commerce back to the era of prices fixed by combinations and the suspension of competition." If this is the very question at issue, it would seem as if Mr. Hudson has so far been artfully misleading us. He certainly has not alluded to it before. So far as careful perusal of his paper has informed us, the question at issue seemed to be whether a small manufacturer had a right to sell out his business to a bigger one; at what point a large manufacturer, who has used his capital in buying out his smaller neighbors, must call a halt, and submit to a redistribution all around; and as to whether small manufacturers should be compelled to do business at a loss rather than sell out to larger ones. However, let us patiently shift our ground as often as necessary, if so be we can discover w,hat it is that our Mr. Hudson really does mean. If it is a fact that modern civilization has really introduced new elements—and other principles besides the principle of competition—into commerce, then by all means let us abolish, let us destroy them (Mr. Hudson knows how to destroy a principle), and get back at once—to what? Not to feudal days, certainly; for that would be modern feudalism, and that is what Mr. Hudson will none of. Perhaps we had better, while we are about it, go back to the Deluge, to Noah the navigator, who spent one hundred and twenty years in building a ship whose quarter-deck he was himself to tread—although it does not appear that Noah had any competitors in the ark-building trade—to the patriarchal rather than to the feudal system.
But, having decided where to go, how are we to turn back commerce? What is commerce? Webster says that what we mean by that term is "the interchange or mutual change of goods, wares, productions, or property of any kind between nations, by purchase and sale, trade, traffic." Very powerful indeed, one would imagine, must be the forces or agencies which shall turn back such tendencies as these—the operations of the laws of human necessity which culminate in the rule of supply and demand as working upon the entire human race. According to Mr. Hudson, however, these tendencies, laws, and rules do not amount to so very much. It is an easy enough matter to handle them. "We have only to legislate railway companies out of existence, and then enact statutes forbidding two of the same trade to combine. Then things will run smoothly. The State will hold the trackage of the late railroad companies as a highway; and every dealer, manufacturer, agriculturist, miner, will carry his product to and fro, and—there you are! No more modern feudalism; nothing but peace, plenty, and communism!
Faulconridge would not fright boys with bugs, but a moral drawn from the middle ages, by reason of its mere remoteness, appears always to be a powerful antic with which to worry the non-capitalist imagination. Any combination of like interests for business purposes—the co-partnership formed by three butter-dealers or six coal-miners to continue the business of selling butter or mining coal; the corporation, or "trust," or combination formed by amalgamation of any existing companies—is a palpable return to the days of feudalism. Thus, the present system of combinations becomes "modern feudalism." Your combinations are so large that they build up a favored and aristocratic class, like the old crown vassals. And again, these industrial combinations are hand and glove with the railways, and so form a network of capital in the meshes of which the poor man is strangled. Now, the simple facts upon which Mr. Hudson assumes to found this hue and cry are these, viz.: The normal tendency of trade to trade-centers, where it can be most conveniently handled, has its inevitable corollary in the tendency, within the trade-center, to centralization of the different branches of trade. In the middle ages the principle operated to build up such imperial centers as Nuremberg, Antwerp, and London, and the corollary to organize, within those centers, the great trade-guilds. In later years the Atlantic Ocean, the Hudson River, and Long Island Sound combined to make New York city an emporium for the deposit and distribution of the products and industries of two continents, while the merely innocent convenience of traders within that city (not any aristocratic or would-be feudal motives on their part) operated to root and group the leather interest into one quarter, cotton goods into another, oils and provisions and iron-mongery into still others. And if two or more traders in an identical staple, finding themselves neighbors or united in a community of interest, saw fit to bind themselves into a single firm or trading company, it was no matter of conspiracy against the public weal, but the merest consideration of personal convenience and facility. When the railroads came, they found themselves obliged—,by the very charters which created them—to haul for anybody who chose to employ them, and to do the most extensive hauling for those who had the largest bulk of hauling for them to do. They were not authorized by their acts of incorporation to first demand certificates of good moral character, or affidavits that the would-be customer was not a combination of individuals or stockholders in a trust or a private corporation. And yet, superfluous as this statement is, it is actually out of such familiar truisms as these (it is difficult to treat the simpleness of the situation without tautology) that Mr. Hudson raises figment after figment and chimera after chimera to disturb and alarm the non-producing and manufacturing classes of this already imperiled community! And the purport of these figments and the portent of these chimeras is always that any use of capital in bulk is crime against this people and this republic; and that the incorporation for business purposes "stands in" with some railway company or all railway companies, because incorporations—and especially railway incorporations—hate the bread-winner and the wage-worker, and desire that he be crushed and swept from the face of the earth; in other words, are feudal, mediæval, and unpatriotic. That is the whole text and comment of Mr. Hudson's elocution. Even feudalism itself was not a curse. It was a proper and convenient institution for its day and date; considering the popular ignorance and helplessness, anything else would have been a less tolerable tyranny. It was the growth of circumstances, rather than—as Mr. Hudson thinks—the forcing of an arbitrary situation by the strong and aristocratic upon the plebeian and the weak: so, to begin with, granting Mr. Hudson's favored and capitalist class, and granting that they "force" any condition of things upon the non-capitalist class, the analogy of this state of things to the institution of feudalism is false and misleading. But feudalism was more than a situation. It was the only form in which the society of the unlettered and formative civilization could be held together at all—the only one which could, on the one hand, curb the despotism of thrones, while on the other conserving the safety and tranquillity of the people. It was the mother of parliamentary government and of civil liberty, to which—in the fullness of time—it yielded and disappeared.
To give a meaning to Mr. Hudson's vision of an analogy between modern industrial centralization and feudalism, let us assume, however, that he means (he does not say so) the mediæval trade-guilds. Now, these trade-guilds, perhaps, were an accompaniment of—certainly they were contemporary with—the institution of feudalism. Moreover, they were broken up and wiped away by the very institution which Mr. Hudson can not find words enough to stigmatize as the root of every modern evil—viz., the growth, of private capital and the combinations of capitalists. The mediæval guild was a thing apart, and its type and character have disappeared forever; and yet, peaceful and judicious as those guilds were, even the anarchist and labor unionist of to-day may dignify his district delegation by comparing it to the guilds of the middle ages, with more show of reason than can Mr. Hudson compare them to our modern corporations. The modern trades-union is an organization whose object is to monopolize—or at least to secure—the right to labor for wages for its own members; to prevent by force, if necessary and convenient (and it latterly has been supposed to be both necessary and convenient), the labor of anybody not one of its members; and to boycott any employer who claims the right to employ the labor of anybody and everybody not its members. The ancient guild was composed of the masters of a certain trade; of men who had, by mastering its practical art, become entitled to that designation—men who practiced it for a livelihood. It had also the industrial and educational function of perpetuating itself by the training of its apprentices to become, in their turn, masters. In the days of feudalism, when the great crown tenants held their territory from the crown by fee of service in its wars (a service they levied on the people to perform in time of war, grinding a profit to themselves by way of reprisal from this same people in time of peace), these guilds preserved the useful arts which ameliorate our own happier times. Each guild met and discussed the state of its particular trade; devised means of improving it (their discussions taking the place now filled by the industrial newspaper, the trade-journal, and the price-current). It passed laws also; but these laws were for the guidance of its own members, not by any means to be supplied outside of it in an attempt by force of arms to make employment for its own members at the expense of the vested rights and liberties of the rest of mankind. So honorable were they in thought, deed, and word, that the wealthiest London merchant to-day is not above marching in procession in their memory behind their banners on Lord-Mayor's-day, arrayed, as Chaucer says they were in his:
". . . in one livery
Of a great and solemn Fraternitie."
To compare them to the unhappy organizations of which laboring-men to-day are the coerced victims—wherein the ignorance of the honest wage-worker is used to deplete his small earnings for the support of vile "master-workmen" and "walking delegates" who toil not, neither spin—and the artificer in brass or iron of mediæval times (who kept his apprentices in his own household as a part of his family, to succeed him as a master of Ms trade and as a member of his guild) with the modem "knight of labor" who will not that any should toil for bread who has not first paid a tax to his "lodge" or "headquarters" or camp—is to insult the guild of the middle ages and its master. But, for all that, the guild and the trades-union are nearer in theory and in practice than the guild and the modern business corporation as chartered in any known quarter of the civilized world to-day. One thing, however, there was in those middle ages, of which, happily for Mr. Hudson and his kind, no analogy has survived—namely, statutes against heresy and seditious utterances, and capital punishments, such as disemboweling, the axe, fagot, etc., for the stirrer-up of discord and unreasonable public discontent. So much for feudalism and the guilds.
Mr. Hudson's next sentence is a long one, and it reads heroically: "It is the almost universal plea, in mitigation for this infraction of economic law, that the capital engaged in combination can not earn fair profits if competition is allowed free play. But what constitutes the just measure of reward for capital? What are the fair profits for capital seeking investment in bonds, mortgages, or loans on commercial paper? The rate of interest that is fixed by free competition. What is the just measure of returns on capital invested in houses, stores, farms, small manufactures, or a thousand other forms of ordinary enterprise? Free competition. What, indeed, is the force which fixes the rate of wages, despite efforts of labor organizations to oppose combination to the action of that force, and notwithstanding the violence provoked where these organizations are brought into conflict with the great combinations of capital? The competition of labor for wages. But the result of combination is to establish, for a favored class of capital, by means of the control of the highways of commerce, an exemption from the force which fixes the just reward of all other human effort, so that excessive profits can be exacted from the masses, to be counted by the tens of millions annually; and if the ideal of railway pooling could be attained, this policy would impose upon the nation a burden of fictitious capital three times the amount of the national debt!"
The term "free competition" in the above, as we have shown, means "forced competition" (at least it means that if the remainder of Mr. Hudson's paper means anything). A and B must compete, whether they will or no: the moment they combine and become A & B, or A, B & Co., or The A and B Manufacturing Company, they are a public calamity and a standing threat to our free institutions! The reader will notice also that labor organizations are law-abiding, peaceful, and highly creditable organizations, unless unhappily "brought into conflict with the great combinations of capital," in which case, of course, the broken beads and boycotts are the fault of the great combinations. (Query: What-"great combination of capital" was at fault in the case of the poor widow whose bakery business was broken up in this city recently because she kept a journeyman baker who did not happen to be a member of a particular boycotters' union which was "competing for labor" in the vicinity of her bake-shop?) A few other simple negations are necessary in disposing of the above sentence—namely: There is no such thing as "the rate of interest" that is "fixed by free competition." The rates of interest are fixed by the laws of demand and supply in the mercantile world, and by statute so far as courts and legal proceedings are concerned. Labor does not, even when wicked capital combines, compete for wages. It appears to be oftener the rule, nowadays, that wages compete for labor; and finally, the combination or centralizing of capital is not an infraction of economic law at all; nor are any one of the above statements we have been at the pains to contradict ever offered as a "plea" or as "pleas" for such an infraction. As to what the "competition of labor for wages" is at the present date, we may illustrate by a single example. Last summer the workmen in a sugar-refinery in Brooklyn struck for an advance in wages. The proprietor called them together, showed them his books, explained to them his expenses, and demonstrated to them that if he paid them the wages demanded, his sugar would cost him more than the market price at which imported sugars were that moment selling in New York city, and that, therefore, he not only could not compete with the imported sugar, but must close his refinery. The "walking delegate," however, had his orders: the strike could not be "off." The rates must be paid; and so the refinery was closed. But, in this Mr. Hudson perceives nothing but justice. Having declined to see that the laws of supply and demand have anything to do with prices, why should they stand in the way of a capitalist paying what wages his "competing workmen" demand? The owner of the Brooklyn refinery was one of the "favored class of capital," who, "by means of the control of the highways of commerce" (the refinery in question stands on the dock, and ocean-going vessels load and discharge at its hatches), "establish an exemption from the force which fixes the reward of human effort." But in this case some force (whether that of the "walking delegate" or of the laws of commerce, or of the New York market) closed his refinery, nevertheless. The workmen who refused to keep their contracts of employment with the sugar-refiner—nay (for such the facts were), threatened to break his machinery and burn and pillage his establishment—and who, by force and arms, kept other workmen from taking their places, were in reality honest, well-meaning, law-abiding citizens! But they had unhappily been "brought into conflict with great combinations of capital," and Mr. Hudson's arguments are not answerable for the result. You and I have a perfect right to use our means to manufacture sugar or to mine for coal, or to add to the prosperity and wealth of our community by adding to our own by employing it in any industry we may elect for. But we must be careful not to stand in the highway where "the competition of labor for wages" may be perchance brought into our vicinity. For that competition might happen to run up against us, and so be brought into conflict with us, and thereby "violence" might be "provoked." And then, if our business is ruined and our property destroyed, Mr. Hudson is not responsible—we had fair warning! Mr. Hudson can fill his pages with any doctrines it pleases him to invent, and find publishers for them; but he will not pay us for our smoking factories and broken machinery. That is our affair, not Mr. Hudson's.
Mr. Huxley somewhere speaks of gentlemen who put their statements "into italics as the queen puts her soldiers into bear-skin caps, to make them look formidable." Mr. Hudson puts his statements into figures for the same paramount purpose. .His picture of the bloated capitalists, by combinations extracting from the masses a sum three times as large as the national debt, is appalling, to be sure. And were this not sufficiently appalling, he adds to it the following dazzling array: "Let us suppose, for the sake of the argument, that the abolition of competition will return a certain proportion of the enhanced profits to the workingman in the shape of increased wages. If the anthracite-coal pool raises the price of coal fifty cents per ton, and gives the miners ten cents of the advance, a gain of $3,000,000 is secured in the annual wages of the. miners; but a burden of $15,000,000 is imposed on the labor that consumes the coal. If the coke syndicate raises its price fifty cents per ton, and gives its workingman ten cents advance, the advantage to labor at the coke-ovens is $400,000 in a year; but a loss of many times the amount is inflicted on labor in the various forms in which that product finally reaches the consumer. If the same operation were repeated by combinations controlling every industry and every staple of consumption, what would be the result? An addition would be made to the cost of life, of which one fifth would be given back to labor in the form of increased wages, and four fifths would be drawn from labor to swell the profits of capital. Change the proportion to whatever form you like, the fact remains that all these combinations are organized to increase the profits of the capital engaged in them; and the increase must either be drawn from the pockets of consumers or extracted from the wages of laborers."—(Page 286.)
Monstrous! The idea of a combination being organized to increase its profits! What an example to the youth of America! What utter demoralization would ensue did it become the habit of our citizens generally to go into trade to increase their profits! Let every statesman, every economist, every preacher in the land, impress upon this generation rather the duty of every man to go into trade for the good of somebody else, and to continue therein to lessen, not to increase, his worldly store! Let him run his business, his warehouse, his factory, his steamships and railroads at a loss, and, the moment he finds his transactions profitable, let him wind up, lest he should "swell the profit of capital"; and if he will not, let the law, or Mr. Hudson, see to it.
So long as the tendency of the products of the earth is to find a market, just so long will it be the tendency within that market for the handling of different classes of products to centralize, until corn and grain are handled in one locality, pork and packed provisions in another, fruits in another, hides and pelts and leather in another. Here is natural law, and here is Mr. Hudson, too, demonstrating the imminent danger to the United States from the normal operation of this natural law. There is, of course, but one remedy for all this (though Mr. Hudson, indeed, fails to point it out), namely, a strong centralized, paternal government like that of the late Brigham Young, who walked in and out among his people, encouraging them in their efforts to amass fortunes; and then, when the fortunes were amassed, receiving heavenly visions instructing the "sealing" of those fortunes to himself! Such a governmental paternity, to be sure, might answer Mr. Hudson's purposes in confiscating the accretions of private capital. But it is difficult to see how otherwise than under just such a particular state we could enjoy the reforms he seeks.
Whenever it shall appear, or come to pass, that the interests of consumers (that is, of the people) are imperiled by the methods which the ramifications of modern civilization impose upon commerce and the operations of trade, it may come within the constitutional jurisdiction of Congress to inquire into and abridge those methods. But until such time shall come is it not, or ought it not to be, a question whether gentlemen who assume to deal with economic questions do not owe some duty to their country—not the old Greek idea of patriotism, perhaps, but still a duty—and whether that duty might not properly consist in declining to supply specious and sophistical propositions to become fire-brands in the grasp of poverty and of ignorance?
- The Standard Oil Company has so reduced the cost of the process of refining that the price of refined oil has been lowered from seventy to less than seven cents per gallon. The people who paid four dollars per capita for light now pay less than forty cents per capita, which is equivalent to a benefit to the people of this country (counting them at 60,000,000) of $216,000,000 per annum.—"New York Tribune," May 15, 1887.