Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/301

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
275
THE STATE AND MONOPOLY

quence of "taking something" is that all the symptoms presented by the case, from that time on, will be the confused product of the disease and the remedy, and it will be impossible to tell which symptoms belong to which cause. Therefore all chance of a clear and careful diagnosis will be lost.

The analogy from individual disease to social disease is one of the safest that can be drawn, nevertheless I use it here only to set in more familiar light the proposition which stands on its own foundation of fact, that legislation for the purpose of attempting a remedy for assumed social disease is affected by this radical vice, viz.: it (the legislation) enters into the subsequent phenomena and renders extremely difficult, if not impossible, all efforts to make a correct diagnosis of the case, to tell certainly whether there is any disease or not—if any, what its character; and finally, what would be its appropriate remedy.

The most glaring case of this vicious legislation in all history is undoubtedly the English legislation about Ireland since 1880. The legislation has so entered into the case that now no data can be obtained for a reasonable study of it, in its original or independent reality, or for a judgment of the effects of the legislation by itself considered.

In our own country, the most remarkable piece of paternal legislation that has ever been passed is the Interstate Commerce Law. The political economy of railroads is as yet but very imperfectly understood. Railroads constitute a natural monopoly; such being the case, it follows that no legislation will ever make them cease to be monopolies. This observation, on its face a truism, is, like most truisms, just the thing which is oftenest forgotten, or whose significance is least frequently