Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/345

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tions during good conduct, and a prospect of promotion if especially efficient. The problems that our Government must confront in the matter of civil-service reform are also to be dealt with by our corporations, and the conditions are enough alike so that the experience of each may serve for the guidance of both.

4. Adequate publicity of corporate transactions. The need of thorough publicity of corporation accounts has been already dwelt on at some length. Nearly all the abuses to which corporate management of property is liable originate and wax mighty only when concealed. On the other hand, secrecy, even when it does not cloak abuses, is commonly suspected of doing so. Most of the unreasoning and unreasonable attacks on corporations have been made when those in charge of the corporations insisted on the privilege of keeping their affairs entirely to themselves. The advantages of business secrecy to the individual business man who practices it are abundantly manifest, but its advantages to the public at large, while also manifest, are countervailed by very serious disadvantages. Experience seems to have demonstrated quite conclusively that a being at once so vulnerable and so powerful as a corporation can not afford to keep its affairs entirely to itself, and if it could afford to do so the public can not afford to let it. There is said to be a strong tendency toward "socialism" in this wresting of business secrets from the great managers of the world's industries, and bringing the most private of business transactions to the bar of public opinion. Many will no doubt answer that "the charge is true, and we glory in its truth." Many more will be inclined to say, with the present writer, that, while this objection should be given its due force, it has not nearly force enough to overrule the strong necessities of the case. The chief danger that legitimate enterprises have to fear from complete publicity is that of overtaxation. The wealth of the corporations lying fully exposed to public view, it is so easy for the politician to fill the public coffers from that source that we already find certain classes of corporations driven out of certain States by excessive taxation. But it may be doubted whether taxation is as likely to be excessive when the state of a company's accounts is definitely known, as when the politician and his constituents are free to draw upon their imaginations for the amount of wealth in the corporate coffers. In other words, it seems probable that in this country, as yet, we have less to fear from willful injustice than from mutual misunderstandings begotten of secrecy on the one hand, and suspicion on the other. European countries are distinctly ahead of us in this matter. They have by no means solved all the problems connected with the corporate management of property, but they have at least collected more of the data that will make a solution possible.