Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/303

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

problem. However, when such an act is passed, the effort of all concerned is to conform to it if they can; and here commences the evil effect I have described. In so far as they conform to it, the phenomena which subsequently present themselves are mixed products of the economy of railroading and of the law. Not only this, but the law also has its imposing effect upon the imagination of all concerned with the matter, and it affects all the assumptions with which they come to the study of it. This is a very common experience. After a law has been in existence for ten or twenty years, and a generation has grown up which can hardly remember anything else, it is almost impossible for them to understand what it would be to be without it. The worst ills from which civilized nations suffer to-day come from just that kind of law, unwisely adopted in the first place, but now regarded as a "bulwark of society." The Interstate Commerce Law is on the way to become just such another.

Every such law when first passed goes through a sort of honeymoon. The eyes of the whole country are upon the Executive when he makes the first appointments on the commission. The test comes when it has become an old story; when public attention has been drawn away to something else; when politics and patronage get control of this matter as of all the rest. A commission for the administration of executive business, like the Civil Service Commission, is a very different thing from a committee endowed with discretion to pass upon the interests of free and equal citizens, not being itself either executive, legislative, or judicial. Such a body will inevitably become the engine of either one interest or another against the rest, or sink into nonentity. Such a commission lacks all the guarantees of