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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/479

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THE POLITICAL CONTROL OF RAILWAYS.

allowed to pay the railways! It is precisely as if the Legislature of New York should provide upon what quality of paper, with what size of type, or color of ink "The Popular Science Monthly" should be printed and furnished to its readers, the Legislature meanwhile not assuming any of the expenses or responsibilities of the publication, paying any losses, troubling itself about any of the risks incident thereto, or even inquiring into the facts of its circulation, cost of manufacture, or pay-roll: for that the Mississippi board even made the slightest effort to inquire—or heard any testimony as to—the volume of business, fixed charges, earnings or operating expenses of the companies to whom it dictated disbursements, there never was the slightest idea or claim anywhere. Indeed, it was the very gist of the ruling in some of those wonderful "Granger" cases (so called), that any such items as the above were "too remote"; the railway company must do business under schedules furnished by the shippers in Legislature assembled. Would a single powerless individual on this continent submit to such legislation as that?

It is rather remarkable that, though the Interstate Commerce Commission has existed almost two years at Washington, the only decisions at all affecting the general railway situation should come from Federal judges holding remote circuits, and that both of these should contravene and ignore an extraordinary tribunal created by Congress to specially oversee railways, sitting at the capital itself. The first of these declared that a railroad company might remain upon the earth, even though it was compelled to charge more for a short than for a long haul;[1] while the other enjoins the Iowa Board of Railway Commissioners from dictating the tariffs at which certain trunk lines shall do business within the borders of that State.[2] Of this latter decision let us hope that it will do something to relieve the delicate adjustments of our railway systems from the lash of ward politics and unenlightened demagogy.

Of all the popular fallacies ever discussed, it seems to me that the one which invokes popular prejudice against railway companies has the least actual basis of merit to stand upon. As a positive fact, the railway is not only chartered by the people, but can only be operated for the people's convenience. In "The Popular Science Monthly" for May, 1888, I had occasion to allude to a certain voluminous denunciation of incorporated industries as rehabilitating the effete institution of feudalism, which appeared to be principally based upon the supposition that feudalism and despotism were convertible terms. As a matter of fact, feudalism was not by any manner of means a despotism per se, even though

  1. Deady, J., United States Circuit Court for Oregon.
  2. Brewer, J., central division of Southern District of Iowa.