Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/393

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RAILWAY MALADJUSTMENTS.

plement each other, and afford further proof that a stable adjustment is only possible when the development of a country's commerce and its means of transport and communication advance together.

The State of Iowa early passed sundry laws very favorable to the construction of railroads, and, as a consequence, induced the premature development of several systems. For convenience of illustration, let us watch the early settlers of Iowa distribute themselves along three lines of railroad when they could have been better accommodated at less cost for highways, schools, churches, policing, and the administration of township and county affairs along the line of one; but in addition to these incidental burdens they found themselves compelled to pay high rates for railway service in order to pay the fixed charges and dividends on the stock of three railroads doing the business of one. If the legislators had been endowed with the common sense of the locomotive driver, they would have closed the throttle-valve and put on the brakes; but, instead of doing this, they allowed the disturbing laws to remain in force, and prescribed legal rates to be charged for railway services, hoping thereby to retain the benefits and still escape the evils of premature railroad extension, and from that day to this Iowa has vainly sought a satisfactory solution of the problem.

The evils to be corrected were those due to the premature or unnecessary construction of railroads: this could only be accomplished by deterring such construction; and in so far as the laws succeeded in so doing, the people were relieved of the evils but lost the advantages arising from the operations of the original law, and, in so far as the remedial laws failed to deter further construction, the evils as well as the supposed benefits of the original law remained in force.

As might be expected, the two classes of laws—the one stimulating direct, the other repressing railroad extensions by impairing their value as investments—did not operate to restore a stable equilibrium; for the adverse legislation was not aimed directly against premature and unnecessary construction, but it simply made the conditions of operating railroads more onerous.

Hence the influence of the two laws may be likened to a seesaw, and in their operations they have caused abrupt changes and violent oscillations. The first effect of adverse legislation tended to stop further building; but when populative increase caused the legal tariff rates to become remunerative to the railroads, the deferring laws became inoperative, the stimulating enactments once more hastened a development far in advance of the natural wants, and the pressure of adverse laws was again experienced; and so these spasmodic fluctuations have taken the place of the