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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/610

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and there appears to be no other means of avoiding such, results than that the great producers should come to some understanding among themselves as to the prices they will ask; which in turn naturally implies agreements as to the extent to which they will produce. Up to this point of procedure no exception on the part of society can well be taken. But such an agreement, once perfected and carried out, admits of an almost entire control of prices and the establishment of monopolies, in the management of which the rights of the public may be wholly ignored. Society has practically abandoned—and from the very necessity of the case has got to abandon, unless it proposes to war against progress and civilization—the prohibition of industrial concentrations and combinations. The world demands abundance of commodities, and demands them cheaply; and experience shows that it can have them only by the employment of great capital upon the most extensive scale. The problem, therefore, which society under this condition of affairs has presented to it for solution is a difficult one, and twofold in its nature. To the producer the question of importance is. How can competition be restricted to an extent sufficient to prevent its injurious excesses? To the consumer. How can combination be restricted so as to secure its advantages and at the same time curb its abuses?

Another cause of the so-called over-production is undoubtedly due to an agency which has never before in the history of the world been operative to the extent that it is at present. With the great increase of wealth that has followed the increased control over the forces of nature and their utilization for production and distribution, there has come a desire to convert this wealth into the form of negotiable securities paying dividends or interest with regularity, and on the recipiency of which the owner can live without personal exertion or risk of the principal. Hence a stimulus for the undertaking of new enterprises which can create and market such securities; and these enterprises, whether in the nature of new railroad, manufacturing, or mining corporations, once developed, must go on producing and selling their products or services with or without a profit in order to meet their obligations and command a share of previously existing trade. Production elsewhere, as a consequence, is interfered with, displaced, and in not a few cases, by reason of better conditions, permanently undersold. And the general result is appropriately recognized by the term "over-production."

Furthermore, in anticipation of such consequences, the tendency and the interest of every successful manufacturing combination are to put the prices of its products down to a figure where it will not pay for speculators to form new competitive stock companies to be bought off or crushed by it. For, if it did