Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/314

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the pool-system, for, with a fixed percentage of the total earnings of a federation of roads, what temptation can remain to make one particular road do more business than that agreed upon as its share? To the objection that pooling would abolish the incentive to excellence in each road, Mr. Fink answers that the system provides for a periodical reapportionment of percentages of earnings among the lines, and that at such times the public preferences for prompt and well-managed lines would tell, to the punishment of dilatory and badly conducted roads. One of the unavoidable difficulties of pooling must ever be the decision as to the percentage allowable to a new line. Only costly trials of strength seem to be able to bring about such decision.

The prices of various important commodities in the different markets of the Union limit the freights chargeable upon them. Thus, if Liverpool salt is to compete with the American article, its carriage inland must be very cheap; and wider considerations of the same kind have to be borne in mind by those intrusted with the power of making tariffs over the great lines. American grain competes with Russian in the great market of Liverpool, and a question of the tenth of one cent per ton per mile may in the long stretches of American rail-carriage decide for or against the sale of the Iowa or Minnesota farmer's produce. The tea and silk trade of China with Great Britain can choose between two great routes, the direct water-route, or the journey in part made up of the American transcontinental railroads.

A closing argument on behalf of pools remains to be stated. They make each great road the guardian of its district, which would not be the case were there to be a consolidated monopoly instead of a pool. As matters now stand, the Pennsylvania and the Baltimore and Ohio roads prevent a concentration of business on the New York Central, the line on which, as far as simple and direct economy is concerned, the harvests of the West can be cheapest carried to the seaboard. Pools, too, by preventing wars, will tend to make railroading less uncertain and more profitable than it has been, and will thus lead to new lines being constantly built.

The detailed criticism of General Reagan's proposed enactments presents fatal objections, and furnishes a new theme for that school of thinkers who hold that the sphere of legislation does not include the control of any business whatever, which may be safely left to meet its difficulties spontaneously. General Reagan's uniform mileage rate would give the shortest route connecting New York and Chicago the lowest rate; hence that route would command all the business until it could accept no more, when the next shortest would come in for the surplus, and so on, leaving nothing for indirect routes whatever. Besides, in railroad practice after the Chicago rate eastward has been fixed, the St. Louis business comes in, and the competition of the roads directly connecting St. Louis and the Atlantic ports must be met by the routes less directly connecting the termini via Chicago. As a