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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/555

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THE passage of the Interstate Commerce bill marked a new era in national economic legislation. The immense magnitude of the interests involved, makes such a radical enlargement of legislative jurisdiction a very important event to the business interests of the country. In view of the bad effects of the long-and-short-haul clause which already have become apparent, it is assumed by many friends of the measure that there is a persistent effort being made on the part of the railway corporations to render the law odious, by the application of its provisions in an extreme and offensive manner. It is true that in many cases long-haul rates have been raised so as to correspond with the old short-haul tariff, instead of the shorter rates being reduced, and in the place of any such general and perfectly proportioned revision of tariffs as would be likely to exhibit the practical operation of the new law in its most favorable light. Such an effort on the part of railway managers could hardly be expected. It can not be denied that corporations are selfish, nor that their operations are conducted with a view to the largest possible ultimate profit. In this respect they are not unlike individuals who engage in business enterprises. In either case the motive is not philanthropy, but profit. While the object of the State in granting charters and creating corporations is the public good and convenience, the purpose of the individual corporators is gain. In any study of the relations existing between the public and the railways, these cardinal principles must not be overlooked.

Before examining specifically the long-and-short-haul clause, let us briefly consider the law as a whole, or rather the principles of general restrictive railway legislation. The recent rapid advance and expansion of legislative jurisdiction into new fields, and especially in the regulation of railway tariffs, where heretofore natural and elastic principles have been supreme, is a new departure of very doubtful utility.

An attempt to regulate prices, or rates, of any kind by artificial legislation, rather than by natural law, or supply and demand, is open to serious objections. The question which now forces itself upon the owners of the $4,000,000,000 (more or less) worth of railway property in the United States is, Where and when will the limit of legislative usurpation be reached? Where will the path lead which is being so rapidly traversed, and upon which such progress has been made in the recent past? It is evident to any candid and thoughtful observer that, if present tendencies continue unchecked, not only tariffs and incomes will be involved, but that the entire principal invested