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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/354

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

believed that much waste of capital would have been prevented had Government controlled the English railways from their inception; unnecessary duplicate lines would not have been built, and their heavy cost in construction and maintenance would have been saved. Some forms of industry, like railway transportation, where free competition can be seen to lead to public waste, would seem to come appropriately under state control, provided that, as in Great Britain and Germany, the Government is administered honestly and intelligently. Advocates of state-controlled industry point to the danger, particularly in America, of railroad and similar monopolies robbing the people, but the people are not yet satisfied that their risks are not less as matters stand than if Washington officials bought supplies, constructed timetables, and engaged the servants. Mr. Albert Fink, railroad commissioner, in ability and character the chief American authority in railroad questions, gave before the Committee on Commerce in Washington, last March, some very interesting explanations of the difficulties of railroad management. He showed that the intricacies of the business were plainly beyond the mastery of a government board, and he attributed the sources of such valid complaints as are made against railroads to their lack of mutual co-operation and good faith. He suggests the appointment of a commission to investigate the facts adduced in substantiation of complaints against railroads; such a commission, at the close of its labors, to recommend, if it thought fit, the establishment of a permanent commission for the best devisable supervision by the state of railroad transportation. Mr. Fink stated that a board of arbitration among the railroads themselves, with power to enforce agreements and maintain good faith, would abolish the main evils which beset the business. He drew attention to the fact that, while agitators desire to reduce the earnings of the few roads in the Union which pay more than the ordinary return upon investments to that rate, they are not desirous of making up from the public treasury the deficits met with in operating many of the lines of great public utility.

Modern business is unquestionably, in important departments, passing from individual to corporate management, particularly as the art of conducting companies becomes better understood year by year. Town and city corporations in Great Britain have long since absorbed with advantage the business of water-supply, and have, within recent years, successfully undertaken the manufacture and supply of gas; and why, if ten men agree to conduct a business, may not ten thousand, or the large majority of voters in a town, or, for that matter, in a country, resolve themselves into a company, if they think there are good prospects of profit ahead, and conduct any business whatever? Experience alone can decide whether the expectation of profit is baseless or not.

Less ambitious than state socialism, and more practical, is co-oper-