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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/759

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TRUSTS THEIR OWN CORRECTIVE.

were entered into, they proved in nearly every case inoperative, from the fact that there was no power to enforce their conditions. The consolidation of competing interests or the principle of "division," therefore, seemed the only thing possible. This was notably the position of the Michigan salt manufacturers, whose association was the outgrowth of competition so fierce that many of them went to the wall. It is likewise true of the whisky trust. When the United States Government, near the beginning of the civil war, raised the internal revenue tax on whisky by successive stages from twenty cents to two dollars per gallon, with a considerable interval intervening between the several advances, an extraordinary stimulus was given to the manufacture. 'Distilleries without number sprang into existence. The result was that the output was far beyond the necessities of the market and it was a ruinous fight for life. In less degree this was the case with the cordage, cotton-oil, and bagging trusts.

Now, it is evident that combinations so formed stand in an anomalous position. Made up of both strong and weak establishments, the resulting corporation may be more powerful than some of its constituent members, but it is far from being equal to its prosperous ones. It is loaded down with old factories and antiquated machinery; it is capitalized at three or four times its actual value; and its managers are obliged, if they do what is expected of them, to support this rubbish and pay a profit besides. Were these combinations protected in the full control of their market, and were their products such that the public could not do without them or find a substitute for them, they might count on something like success. But capital is always on the outlook for prizes. It is always ready to make daring ventures in the hope of large returns. The fact that any one of these combinations can make eight or ten per cent on an inflated capital is clear evidence that the return for legitimate investment might be much greater. So the independent operator enters the field. The inevitable war of prices has been delayed a little, but the delay has permitted the growth of new and powerful organizations against the old concerns.

This point has been admirably illustrated in the experiences of the lead trust. It was not long ago that the annual meeting of the stockholders of that enterprise was held, and in the report of the president appeared this significant statement: "There has been, and always will be, competition in each class of goods manufactured by this company. It does not aim to obtain monopoly." The facts are, however, that at the beginning of 1892 the trust had control of all the lead-works in this country with the exception of two small establishments, one in Boston and one in Philadelphia; and even these were bound to it by ironclad