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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/394

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

steady, rhythmic development which results from the operation of natural laws and is ever indicative of genuine progress and stability.

The pernicious influence of such conflicting legislation has led capital to alternate its moods between the extremes of inexcusable recklessness and unwarranted timidity; whereas the repeal of laws encouraging construction would withdraw the incentive of the reckless, while a similar repeal of laws discouraging construction would quiet the fears of the timid, and a healthy growth and a stable development would result.

Laws which have led to the construction of parallel lines of railway have diverted capital from the improvement of the country's highways; and even in Illinois and adjoining States, during certain seasons of the year, a ton of freight can be shipped a thousand miles to the seaboard at less cost than it can be hauled a distance of ten miles to market; yet, in spite of this grotesque condition, laws encouraging further railroad extensions still deface their statute-books.

The Interstate Commerce Bill aims to correct the evil, but it will fail, for it does not touch the cause. It attempts to cure evils which have come from unnecessary and premature construction by regulating the operation of railroads. Its direct and immediate effects appear to be good, for men do not concern themselves with the necessary reactions which are the true adjustments by which any laws or systems of laws must be judged.

Here is our railroad system in a state of utter demoralization and confusion, and yet the "Railway Age" of April 12th presents a table in detail showing that six hundred and sixty-six new lines are in contemplation, with an aggregated mileage of over fifty-three thousand miles, of which nearly fifteen thousand miles are under construction or contract, nearly ten thousand miles are surveyed, and twenty-nine thousand miles incorporated only. Does this not suggest the probable direction which the reaction to the Interstate Commerce Bill will take, unless stimulating laws are repealed, viz., a separation of the men who build the railroads on speculation under the one class of laws and the bona fide investors who will be compelled to purchase and operate them under the other class of laws? Can any one imagine the bewildering complications which the new adjustment threatens?

The Interstate Commerce Bill gives fair warning to investors that, if they avail themselves of laws which encourage the construction of railroads, they must suffer the consequences of their rashness, for they will be permitted neither to combine in pools nor discriminate in rates. This would be fair and logical if the parties constructing railroads were also the ones who operate them; but, unfortunately, our laws are so devised as to give aid and en-