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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/659

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LAW AS A DISTURBER OF SOCIAL ORDER.

may here say that this method has seldom found favor with legislators.

As is usually the case, if legislation is to be invoked, it is generally in favor of those already strong in aggressive energy, and with these legislative aids the way is paved for the rich to become richer and the strong to become stronger. In this case the rich were furnished a substitute for confidence by a law which limited the duties and the liabilities of those combining, whereas it has been shown that in a healthy social state trusts and duties must be coextensive.

Legislators practically declared that, while they could not make men honest, they could establish confidence by so limiting the liability of those combining that honesty, instead of being an essential element of trust, would be inconsequential as an industrial force, for the possible chances of loss to the investor should be small. In this manner legislation pushed men together who would not be drawn together by mutual confidence; and society, having seen fit to trust those who would not trust each other, now complains of the insolence, injustice, and dishonesty of corporations! But, while denouncing corporations in unstinted terms, there are those who still regard them as a public blessing, essential to the times, but pray their legislators to deprive them of their sting, much after the manner of those who, while insisting upon the heavier waters of the lakes, would seek to legislate away the natural and inevitable consequences of doubling their specific gravity.

Those possessed of capital are entitled to its rewards. Those enjoying the confidence of others are equally entitled to its blessings. But, in providing the capitalist a substitute for confidence or trust, government neutralizes the forces which reside in honesty and justice, and makes inert as an industrial factor the trust and confidence of the poor.

Is there an enterprise of uncertain origin or doubtful purpose, it appears as an incorporated company. Firms upon the verge of bankruptcy, or about to take hazardous risks, change a partnership into a joint-stock company. Swindling patent-right, insurance, and mining schemes all take the form of corporations; but if the liability of a joint-stock company is limited, it simply means that the possible losses to society are without limit. An incorporated company with one hundred thousand dollars' worth of stock fails for eleven hundred thousand dollars; the company is liable for a hundred thousand dollars in addition to their stock, while the trusting public is called upon to lose a million dollars. Why, in the name of justice, should society give to corporations unlimited chances for profit, when, in case of loss or failure, society itself must bear the burden of all losses which exceed the