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traveled converging lines with Socialism. Each repudiates the other, yet both have much in common, and of late the sympathetic ties are being recognized.
Without quite knowing it they are in complete accord on the fundamental proposition that competition, as heretofore understood and practiced, is an evil to be suppressed.
What partially blinds Labor Unionism to the viciousness of competition is the so-called "conflict between Capital and Labor." This supposed conflict leads labor to encourage "cut-throat" competition where capital and profits are concerned, while decrying it where labor and wages are involved-an illogical position.
Some Socialists in their hatred of capitalism uphold laws-such as the anti-trust laws-that are supposed to promote competition, quite overlooking the obvious truth that such legislation is contrary to all the tenets of Socialism, being the over-ripe fruit of individualism. In the main the more philosophical Socialist writers look upon the "trust" as the final stage of "Capitalism," the forerunner of the Socialistic community.
For our present purpose it is sufficient to point out that two very large factors in modern Society are opposed in theory and practice to competition as commonly understood. Unionism will have none of it in the world of labor. Socialism would have none of it in the world at all.
When to the opposition of these two factors is added the opposition of Capitalists, Society would seem to be pretty nearly a unit to the effect that competition is not the good thing it is said to be.
In Europe as well as America there is a ferment of new ideas, of protest, of doubt, of discontent regarding
this matter of competition. The old ideas do not seem so sound, they do not ring so true as they once did; they do not fit present conditions, there is something wrong.
As a matter of fact, they never were true, they never were more than superficially sound.
Competition was the life of trade only when trade was piratic, merciless. Competition, good, old-fashioned "cutthroat" competition, belongs to trade's buccaneering days when every industry flew the black flag and the appearance of a competitor meant war to the knife.
Conditions have changed, men no longer look upon one another as industrial and commercial brigands. We are far from an era of universal good feeling, of mutual confidence, of generous and hearty coöperation, but the world is working that way.
Steam and electricity have brought countries, cities, individuals, so close together the old feeling of bitter antagonism is softened. The real competitor of the country merchant is not the fellow on the opposite corner, but the mail-order store a thousand miles away. The real competitor of the mine-worker in Pennsylvania is not the man in the next shaft, but the immigrant boarding the steamer at Naples. The only competition the laborer in California fears is from the Orient.)
Within a hundred years the world has narrowed to a very small area. Distance has been well-nigh annihilated; men, once far apart and strangers, are now near neighbors; in close contact they speak to one another with ease.
The competition of isolation is no longer possible, it never was profitable, it has become disastrous; yet a very respectable section of the body politic-louder than all, the politicians-cry out for it; they would stem the tide of progress and restore the obsolete.
It is all futile. The old competition is passing beyond recall. The new is coming, coming as surely as the con
quest of the air is coming, coming as surely as other and greater inventions and discoveries are coming to weld men closer together. All the King's horses and all the King's men cannot put competition back again. It is fallen, cracked, and forever spilled.
In a recent case in the Supreme Court of the United States a Justice, distinguished for his philosophical insight and literary expression, said:
"I think that we greatly exaggerate the value and importance to the public of competition in the production or distribution of an article, as fixing a fair price. What really fixes that is the competition of conflicting desires. We, none of us, can have as much as we want of all the things that we want. Therefore, we have to choose. As soon as the price of something that we want goes above the point at which we are willing to give up other things to have that, we cease to buy it and buy something else. Of course, I am speaking of things that we can get along without." 1
Other courts have said:
"Excessive competition may sometimes result in actua injury to the public, and competitive contracts, to avert personal ruin, may be perfectly reasonable. It is only when such contracts are publicly oppressive that they become unreasonable and are condemned as against public policy."
"While, without doubt, contracts which have a direct tendency to prevent a healthy competition are detrimental to the public, and consequently against public policy, it is equally free from doubt that when such contracts prevent an unhealthy competition and yet furnish the public with adequate facilities at fixed and reasonable rates, they are
'Dissenting opinion of Justice Holmes, in Dr. Miles Medical Co. vs. Park & Sons Co., 220 U. S. p. 373.
'People vs. North River Sugar Refining Company, 54 Hun. 354, and N. Y. S. 406.
beneficial and in accord with sound principles of public policy. For the lessons of experience, as well as the deduction of reason, amply demonstrate the public interest is not subserved by competition which reduces the rate of transportation below the standard of fair compensation." 1
"I think it would be unsafe to adopt as a rule of law every maxim which is current in the counting room. It was said some three hundred years ago that trade and traffic were the life of every commonwealth, especially of an island. 2 If it be true also that competition is the life of trade, it may follow such premises that he who relaxes competition commits an act injurious to trade; and not only so, but he commits an overt act of treason against the commonwealth. But I apprehend that it is not true that competition is the life of trade. On the contrary, that maxim is the least reliable of the host that may be picked up in every market place. It is, in fact, a shibboleth of mere gambling speculation, and is hardly entitled to take rank as an axiom in the jurisprudence of this country. I believe universal observation will attest that for the last quarter of a century competition in trade has caused more individual distress, if not more public injury, than the want of competition. Indeed, by reducing prices below or raising them above values (as the nature of the trade prompted), competition has done more to mcnopolize trade, or to secure exclusive advantages in it, than has been done by contract."
It is interesting to find such expressions regarding competition from the mouths of judges called upon to decide actual cases involving competition. Theirs is no academic theory evolved in the seclusion of the closet, but conclusions reached in the adjustment of controversies between man and man.
There are plenty of courts that have held otherwise, that have talked about competition in the old way, that 'M. & L. R. R. Co. vs. Concord R. R. Co., 66 N. H. 100.
'City of London's Case, 8 Co. 125.
'Kellogg vs. Larkin (1851, 3 Pinney Wis.) 123, 56 Am. Dec. 178-181.
have, in short, treated it as a fetish, instead of critically examining its claims to immunity.
The world is filled with men who repeat, parrot-like, what others have said; that is the easy, the natural, the safe thing to do. It may be just as well that the overwhelming majority of men do this, for stability depends upon tradition, but progress follows in the footsteps of him who challenges, who utters the insistent "Why?" who accepts nothing on hearsay, but goes straight to the root of things and finds out for himself.
It is the business of the office-seeker and holder to curry favor-that is, he thinks it is, and it is this conviction that governs his tongue. He speaks the things he thinks the people wish to hear. He does not know they would like to hear the new thing and the true thing. He does not realize that while he is repeating what he has heard and what he has read, reiterating the worn-out phrases, there may be those in his audience who are thinking about coming things, who are eagerly listening for just one word that will throw some light on the problems of the day, and they are the only ones worth talking to.
Of what use is it to talk to the laborer or the small merchant about the glorious benefits of the old competition when they know it is the old competition that is stifling them, when the laborer knows that his Union has absolutely suppressed competition in his particular trade, when the merchant knows that if the competition to which he is being subjected at the moment continues six months, he will be bankrupt?
The man who hires labor or buys goods may applaud the familiar utterance, but even he has his competition in