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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/639

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COMPETITION AND THE TRUSTS.

accurately adjust supply to demand, and their shelves were rarely too heavily laden with wares. To-day, so rapidly have improvements in steam-machinery multiplied the output of factories and mills, that overproduction is their chronic case; and this overproduction is in no slight measure due to a fallacy into which sanguine men have been led by the rapid expansion of America's railroad system. Beyond the increase of market due to new populations attracted by this expansion, unwarranted expectations have been entertained. The mere aggregation of the small districts in which business was done in the past has been taken to mean an immense enlargement of the whole national demand, as if taking down fences were to augment the area of contiguous farms. Railroad extension means new rivalry quite as often as new customers. Woolens woven in Minnesota now compete in Massachusetts and Connecticut with goods of home production. Iron castings from Tennessee and Alabama are to-day entering Northern markets by virtue of freight-tariffs nominal in comparison with those of fifteen or twenty years ago. Now that the whole Union is merged as a single market, calculations with regard to competition are more difficult than ever before. A generation or two since under-supply was a common liability. To-day the opposite embarrassment of overproduction is the business man's problem as he surveys dislocations of industry as much more severe than those of his grandfather's time as the waves of the storm-beaten Atlantic exceed the ripples of a mill-pond. And evil has bred after its kind. Prior to 1878 Canada had a low tariff; the protective duties enacted that year were imposed chiefly because of overproduction in the United States. It was shown that Canadian manufacturing interests were demoralized through the Dominion being made a slaughter-market for the surplus stocks of American factories and mills.

Competition's systematic underselling is chargeable with the enormous losses which arise from adulteration. Consumers are usually poor judges of the purity or durability of what they buy, and the appearance of cheapness easily deceives them. When once adulteration has lowered a price, they resist the increase of it necessary to restore a sound standard of quality. Yet, as a rule, the great majority of those who practice adulteration are unwilling parties thereto. If a grinder of paints begins mixing sulphate of baryta with his white leads, his competitors must do the same. If a dealer in sirup dilutes it with glucose, in self-defense others in the trade must practice the same deception. The low prices brought about by such methods mean dear buying. Especially is this the case with textile fabrics. Cottons and woolens are not seldom deteriorated in wearing quality one half by admixtures which only reduce the cost of production one fifth; and greed has