Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/598

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
580
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

be on the side of the laboring class, and the fall of such a plutocracy might be safely prophesied. But Marx happily was mistaken as to the tendency. The tendency is not to the greater and greater fortunes of individual capitalists. That tendency did, however, exist during and for a certain time after the industrial revolution, especially in England, so long as she had a comparative monopoly of the continental as well as other foreign markets. And the tendency was so marked, it lasted so long, and some men became so rich, that Marx may be excused for generalizing too hastily from it, as undoubtedly he did. That tendency has now almost ceased in England, from increased competition, from the want of the old opportunities, from increased wages, from the spread of companies, and other causes; and though it did exist at the time Comte wrote, according to M. Leroy-Beaulieu it has ceased in France; the law, moreover, having there considerably assisted to check it by the equal partition of inheritances among the children.

The real tendency at present is to the greater massing together of separate portions of capital owned by many capitalists, small, great, and of moderate dimensions; to the concentration of capital certainly, but not to its concentration in single hands; to the union of capitals for a common purpose, while still separately owned. The tendency is to the creation of companies and unions of companies; to the transformation of the larger businesses into companies with larger capital, the original owner retaining a large portion of the shares, and possibly a large influence in the management, if the business is in a sound condition. The tendency is also to give business ability without capital chances of becoming rich through the management of such large concerns, and greatly to increase the number of directors of industry who, without being large capitalists, may in time become considerable capitalists.

The tendency to the concentration of capital, then, does exist as a fact, and socialism might conceivably come as the end of the tendency; only it will not come as the result of its concentration in the hands of a few mammoth millionaires, for the tendency is not toward such in any country save the United States, and even there the tendency is not marked, or it only shows itself in comparatively few instances. It might conceivably come as the result of a universal syndicate and monopolistic regime, which, if the monopolists greatly abused their position, might necessitate the state either to regulate stringently or itself to occupy and undertake those industries whose abuses proved incorrigible. But if a partial socialism came in this way, it would give the present system a much longer lease of life, both because the process of monopolistic occupation will probably be slow, and