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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/645

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COMPETITION AND THE TRUSTS,

ness to criticism and sense of public responsibility which. have marked the Standard's later history. These "trusts" fall in the main into four classes—those which, like the iron and steel trust, are fostered by a tariff which excludes foreign competition; those like the envelope trust, which derive an additional element of monopoly from patented machinery and processes; those like the gas trusts, which are of quasi-public character, and operate under municipal franchise; and lastly, those which, like the Standard Oil and Cotton-seed Oil Trusts, depend solely upon aggregated capital and unified organization for their supremacy. That lowering the tariff would abate the excessive gains of "trusts" of the first-mentioned kind is proved by the sudden rise in the value of their certificates on the defeat of a national Administration pledged to tariff reform. In so far as abuse of patent-rights is made auxiliary to "trust" extortion, the curtailment or forfeiture of such rights, when so abused, becomes a subject demanding legal redress. With respect to "trusts" exercising quasi-public privileges, such as those of gas-supply, the remedy consists in municipal control, as convincingly maintained by Prof. E. J. James, of Philadelphia, in his treatise on the subject.

In considering the difficult questions which the advent of the "trusts" has created, it is necessary to discriminate between those which treat the public fairly and those which exact the utmost the public can be made to pay. If the Standard Oil Trust, disgraceful though its history may be, can prove that it gathers, transports, refines and sells petroleum cheaper than could the competitors whose place it has taken, what can be said against it? Its managers have built up a Union-comprehending organization, and are entitled to share in the results which flow from the economies they have perfected. Fairly managed, a trust is the last term in a process which began when a machine dispossessed hand-labor; which advanced when steam was applied to the machine; which took another step when steam-machinery, operated by massed joint-stock capital, undersold private firms. Industrial progress has steadily marched forward along the lines dictated by the economy of bigness over smallness, of high specialization, of the adjustment of supply to an ascertained demand, the constant substitution of knowledge of markets for ignorance regarding them, the unremitting elimination of chance. To many thousands of worthy men engaged in the rivalry with new methods they have meant defeat and ruin. This is pathetic but inevitable, for, when once men find out some better or cheaper way of doing a thing, they never go back to some costlier or more troublesome plan, no matter who suffers. Excluding then from all combinations to be pursued and condemned those which are controlled with fairness, we have to consider the best course to