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But our speed has become so headlong, developments have piled upon developments so fast, changes followed changes with such breathless rapidity, the people are frightened; the very size of things startles them. As fortunes got bigger and bigger, and corporations became more and more powerful, and trusts were formed, it was thought time to call a halt, and laws were passed to curb-progress!
These laws are not well drawn because what they were aimed at was not well understood.
The "trust" was looked upon as a thing apart, as a monster to be annihilated. It was not clearly seen that the trust is just as legitimate, just as logical a development of economic conditions in this marvelous country as are the corporation and the partnership. The trust is simply one of our big ways of doing things, and in and of itself the billion dollar corporation doing business in the world at large is no more to be feared than the million dollar corporation doing business in a small town, or the ten thousand dollar partnership doing business in the country village, each may dominate its particular sphere, and dominate it in the same way and by precisely the same methods, and each may abuse its powers.
Of all peoples on the face of the globe the American people ought to be the least fearful of mere size.
But we are or rather have been, for fear of size is passing. We have framed laws aimed not at methods but at magnitude. We passed the Sherman Act which is aimed at size, and for many years the courts applied that act to
combinations irrespective whether the things they did were fair and reasonable or not, but of late a change has come over the country, our eyes are becoming accustomed to magnitude, no longer do we jump at the sight of a trust like a small boy at a shadow in the dusk; we are beginning to see that size has its advantages as well as its disadvantages; that it enables men to do things on a scale commensurable with the wealth, the resources, the power of the country-in short that the much feared, much hated trust may have its place in the economy of national and international trade.
When the Sherman law was passed there were so few trusts in existence no one knew much about them; now— twenty odd years after-there are so many in every state, in every city, in almost every country town that the average school boy knows all about them. They have been so denounced, debated, discussed that no one is ignorant of their number, their steady increase, and their uses.
The common people have come to see clearly that there is very little difference between combinations-trusts-of labor, and combinations of farmers, merchants, manufacturers. They all have in view the one end-better returns for their efforts.
As a natural result the old destructive laws have fallen into disrepute, and there is a wide demand for constructive legislation.
Many so-called progressives, or radicals, loudly oppose the repeal of the Sherman law, but even they admit the absolute need of supplemental legislation, and it is quite
apparent from the bills they have introduced or advocated in Congress that while they oppose all direct attacks on the Sherman law, they concede it is obsolete and mischievous in its operations.
The more the entire subject is debated, the clearer it is that public sentiment is crystallizing in favor of legislation that will regulate instead of destroy, that will get all there is of good in trusts and large combinations and suppress all there is of evil, and out of this sentiment will spring the much more vital conviction that before trusts and large corporations can be effectually dealt with all that is evil, oppressive and unfair in the practices of the INDIVIDUAL must be suppressed.
In other words, we are on the road that leads straight toward the adoption of higher standards of conduct in commerce and industry.
The agitation against trusts has led to a critical examination of the conduct of the individual and men see to-day as they have never seen before that the trouble lies within and not without.
A law aimed at a ten million dollar corporation or a billion dollar trust because of its size is no law at all, it is merely an expression of blind prejudice since the corporation or trust half the size may do things far more oppressive and unfair.
The large corporation may need more careful watching, greater publicity, because its power is so great, and without watchfulness on the part of the public and publicity in all its operations it may be tempted to abuse its advantages, but kept within the bounds of fair and straightforward dealing, its size may be of great value to the community.
It is easy and instinctive to condemn what we do not understand. It is much easier to pass a law aimed at this, that or the other object, than it is to frame a law that will reach and correct abuses. It is far easier to frame a law that will hit the Standard Oil Company than it is to frame one that will search out and condemn oppressive and unfair methods whether used by a corporation or an individual.
Anti-Trust legislation has been drawn along the lines of least resistance; it is safe to say that no law has been passed against trusts and monopolies that has not been framed with some conspicuous trust in mind, and in probably every instance, the Standard Oil Company. That legislation so important and far-reaching in its general consequences should turn on popular hatred for one large company is a confession of weakness.
But the tide has turned, there is a loud and louder demand for laws that will remedy abuses—no matter by whom practiced. There is a demand for better standards of business morality, for a better business code. There is an opportunity for statesmanship of the highest order. Our Representatives and Senators may not realize the extent and the character of this golden opportunity; most of them may cling close to the ground to catch the murmurings of shifting public opinion; most of them may try to talk and vote as they think the people would like to have them talk and vote; few may understand that in the long run the people
love and respect the men who talk and vote as their consciences dictate.
But there are men who are looking far ahead, who are anxious to have a part in doing things that will help make the history of their country, who wish to have a part in the adoption of an enlightened constructive policy and the future depends upon their conscientious efforts.
The much vaunted Sherman law will pass into economic history along with such English laws as those against “regrating," " "forestalling," and "engrossing, and laws against labor unions-as one of man's many futile attempts to check evolution. Its chief value lies in the fact it has aroused the country, made men see the necessity of doing something of affirmative value.
More than once in the preceding chapters we have indicated some of the things the new laws will provide for and against; a brief summary, however, will not be out of place in these concluding pages.
Any law that is formed should be comprehensive in its scope and with two prime objects in view.
A. PUBLICITY-the frank and free disclosure of all competitive practices.
B. REFORM-the suppression of all dishonest, fraudulent, oppressive and unfair business methods. Publicity will accomplish three-fourths of the reforms.
The law should provide for:
1. A Federal Commission to hear and adjust all controversies arising under the law. Inasmuch as the principles governing the deliberations of the proposed commission would be essentially the same as the principles controlling the decisions of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the two should be branches of the one tribunal; this would be