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all the more appropriate in view of the additional fact that many important trade and industrial questions could not be determined without taking into consideration rates and questions of transportation.
This Commission would need to have branch courts or divisions in different sections, with, possibly, agents or deputy commissioners in every city of importance; say every federal judicial district-these are matters of detail.
2. Every corporation engaged in interstate commerce should be required to take out a license and file certain general information regarding capitalization, capacity, output, etc., etc., and such other details as the development of the new plan shows to be important. Federal incorporation may be desirable but is not essential.
Whether individuals and partnerships engaged in interstate commerce should come under all the provisions of the law is a matter of serious consideration, the law may, and very properly should, recognize the distinction that exists between the individual or the partnership and the corporation. The latter being a legal entity and wholly dependent upon the law for permission to do business at all, may be subjected to more rigid requirements. In fact, if it should be so desired, the law at first might be made to include only corporations, leaving individuals to come under its provisions later as they become convinced of the value of publicity and frankness.
But if individuals are to be allowed to complain of the acts of corporations, they, in turn, should be subject to the same rules of fair conduct, for an individual, having less at stake, may hurt a corporation by unfair competition more than the corporation can hurt him.
3. Require the use of a uniform system of accounting, especially of cost accounting, and make any intentional failure to keep absolutely truthful and accurate records of all purchases and all sales a punishable offense.
4. Make the following acts punishable :
(b) Secret rebates, terms, commissions.
(c) Shipping of quantities or qualities of goods other than those described in invoices.
(d) False or misleading statements regarding (a) costs, (b) sales, and (c) prices charged others.
(e) Refusal to tell one buyer when lower prices have been charged others for similar goods. This provision would do more than anything else to bring about fair and frank trading.
5. Make the following acts subject to rigid investigation on complaint of any party claiming to be injured, and make them punishable if it should appear they were done with intent to injure anyone.
(a) Selling at, or below, cost.
(b) Selling to one man on better terms than are charged his competitor.
(c) Selling in one locality at different prices from those charged in another-all other conditions being equal.
The foregoing general provisions constitute a business code appropriate to all, whether individuals, partnerships, corporations or trusts-it would tend toward fair trade and higher business standards.1
The following have to do with the formation of associations to help trade conditions, and which would be useful in applying the principles of the new code. In fact, without associations it would be impossible for a federal commission to enforce the proposed provisions which are general in character. Only the parties engaged in a trade or industry are in a position to work out the details, and formulate the rules necessary to compel obedience. The public does not realize how eager the best business men are to do some of these very things, how gladly they would "blacklist" the
1 1 See German code, appendix, pp. 338, 359.
manufacturer or dealer who resorts to tricky or unfair practices, but the law as it stands does not permit them to get together and act as a unit; the following suggestions are made to meet this condition:
6. Remove all restrictions upon the organization of associations and combinations to control occupations, trades and industries; on the contrary directly encourage such organizations, encourage men to do for themselves the things that should be done, but under the following conditions:
(a) Each association shall file its articles of agreement and the details of its organization with the proper federal department.
(b) Its meetings shall be open to any representative of the government who, in the performance of his duties, wishes to attend, and he shall have power to examine all records, files and papers, and to question officers and members regarding not only the transactions of the association, but their own acts in furtherance of the objects of the association.
(c) Power in the federal commission, upon complaint of any party, to review the acts of the association, if necessary revise and fix prices and conditions of purchases and sales, award damages, enforce penalties, dissolve the association.
(d) Power, also, to require publicity and to name conditions under which representatives of (a) employees, (b) parties who sell to members of association, and (c) customers, may attend the meetings of the association.
With these broad general provisions the country would have nothing to fear from combinations however large. Their influence would be beneficial, and each would work out for its own occupation, trade or industry such rules as would be necessary for compliance with the letter and spirit of the new code.
Every objection that can be urged against these suggestions was urged with no greater force against the interstate commerce law, yet sharply as that law has been criticized by railroad men here and there, the railroad world as a whole would not go back to the old demoralized conditions that prevailed in the days of unfettered competition, the days of secret rebates, of arbitrary and unfair discrimination in rates.
Ten years from now manufacturers will look back upon existing conditions in the industrial world as equally barbaric.
It is gratifying to note that in the Clayton and Trade Commission Laws some of the things urged in this chapter are on the way to accomplishment.
The danger ahead is that the country has taken so advanced a forward step the reaction may be great.
Reaction ever follows action, and already the signs are unmistakable that the country is not only disposed to call a halt on further economic experiments, but even inclined to retrace its steps.
For six or eight years a radical spirit prevailed; at the moment1 a conservative tendency is obvious.
The future of the two new laws depends almost entirely upon the wisdom of the new Trade Commission. It will be only too easy for that Commission to so administer the law as to court the fate of the unlucky Commerce Court, for, like the Commerce Court, the Commission faces a feeling of distrust due to the underlying feeling of uncertainty regarding what it will do and what the laws mean. Its powers are so great people are afraid.
This feeling of apprehension may be easily and quickly allayed, and it is safe to assume that the Commission, composed as it is of lawyers, experts, and business men, will 1 Spring of 1915.