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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/278

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WHATEVER we may fail to see nowadays when we take up a newspaper, there is one thing certain to meet our eyes on the first page, with a continuation probably on other pages. We refer, of course, to the perpetually recurring accounts of strikes and other labor troubles. If we do not see our way out of these difficulties, it is not for want of having our attention repeatedly and powerfully directed to them; nor is it because our interests are not seriously concerned in the matter. Yet we are not aware that recent discussion has thrown any important light either upon the cause of the troubles or upon the method of their cure. In this there is room for the application of scientific principles. All the facts that have any bearing on the case require to be carefully gathered. We should ask not only what are the open pretensions of the parties to the struggle, but what are their secret thoughts and purposes. We fear that there is a great deal of working in the dark, simply from lack of information as to "bottom facts." Platforms and manifestoes never tell the whole truth. They may formulate a temporary modus vivendi; but they never state ultimate intentions. Consequently, as long as we confine our attention to these, we are liable to continual misunderstandings. For example, some are disposed to think that the legal establishment of boards of arbitration would meet the present difficulties. The idea appears to us, on the other hand, absurd. Those who adopt it do so, no doubt, on the strength of the declarations made on either side of a desire for a reasonable settlement of disputes. We reject the idea, because we suspect that no definite sense can be attached to the word "reasonable" or the word "equitable," as used in the public statements either of labor unions or of the great employers of labor. Each side has its own secret tendency, and until we get at that we are all in the dark. Meanwhile it seems certain that neither capitalist nor workman would consent to have a course dictated to him by any form of official authority. There is no getting over the homely maxim that everybody knows his own business best; and we can hardly understand how any rational man can bring himself to believe that any large business could be run, against the judgment of its head, upon lines laid down by outsiders. Still more difficult is it to understand how, if the workmen were dissatisfied with the decision of an official board, they could be forced to respect that decision.

The proposition simply affords another example of the readiness with which in these days government or legislative interference is invoked for the settlement of difficulties. What common sense or the instinct of justice between man and man can not, or apparently can not, effect, that the Legislature, in its infinite justice and wisdom, is asked to undertake. Such efforts tend only to obscure the real elements of the situation. We may be mistaken, but it seems to us that the position taken to-day by the laboring classes (to use the common expression) involves the principle that free competition for wealth between man and man in society should not be allowed. Every intelligent man, whatever his status in society, would allow that were all the wealth in the world to be redistributed equally to-day, a year would not elapse, under the régime of free competition, before there would again