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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/353

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339
RAILROADS AND TRADE-CENTERS.

trade-centers as we have watering-places, for example, until this nation, where the people make the laws and own themselves, becomes the land of trade-centers! And if the coarse and brutal railway company—owned by the grasping and bloated capitalist, the heartless Gould, or Vanderbilt, or Huntington, or Garrett—will not give us any trade-centers, let us petition the Interstate Commerce Commission, that these men and their soulless companies cease to dominate and despotize over this republic, and build us trade-centers wherever we want them; and, if they then refuse, let the Commission itself designate the points where our trade-centers shall hereafter erect themselves, and to which our railways shall build their track.

The simple, honest truth is that railways, like natural persons, must live by doing what is set before them; that however their tariffs are regulated, whether discriminations by rebates and drawbacks are allowed or disallowed, whether they are ordered to charge more for the long haul or the short, whether passes are given to shippers or refused—the railway must do the business the people bring to it, or go into bankruptcy and wind up. If grain seeks Chicago, if beef seeks New York, if cotton seeks New Orleans—to Chicago, New York, and New Orleans must the railway haul these products. It can not carry them to Milwaukee, to Albany, to Mobile. And, moreover, to pay its fixed charges, the railway company, like any natural person, must take the business it pays it to do, and reject that which will not pay it. Neither a railway company, nor all the railways on this continent, nor yet the Interstate Commerce Commission, nor any merely human agency, can make a trade-center. It is a disappointment, no doubt, that this is so; that toward points already favored with ample water communication, and to those only, will railroads extend their tracks, and ultimate their systems. But, even though that disappointment be crystallized in penal and prohibitory legislation, such indeed has always been the vital principle of self-preservation in the railway, as in the human system: and such, indeed, I fear (especially since Judge Deady has held judicially that railways have a right to live), will always be the rule, whether or no this people's antidote for their disappointment be to place the railroads in charge of changing Administrations at Washington, or whether tariffs will be more reasonable when left to politicians than to railway experts.

 


 
An English writer maintains that international arbitration must take the place of war, because war costs so much more than it used to do. The expense of war in the middle ages was limited to the men it killed, the property it actually destroyed, and the value of the industrial occupations the soldiers were withdrawn from. Now the burden of even a local war of relative insignificance is felt in every quarter of the world; and important business enterprises at the antipodes may be ruined by conflicts which in the old days would hardly have been heard of outside of their immediate scenes.