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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/746

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

is between parties who, in the last resort, are dependent upon one another's good will, the less likely they are to recognize their substantial identity of interest." What Mr. Dreiser clearly shows is how great the community of interest is between the railroads on the one side and the farming community on the other, and how fully that community of interest is recognized by the railways at least. The freight agent of a given line is charged with the duty of developing to the utmost—in the interest, primarily, of his road, it may readily be granted—the agricultural resources of the country through which it runs. He has his assistants, who look after different branches of the work, such as crop-raising, cattle-grazing, dairying, poultry-raising, etc. "Through this department," the writer says, "the railroads are doing a remarkably broad educational work, not only of inspecting the land, but of educating the farmers and merchants, and helping them to become wiser and more successful. They give lectures on soil nutrition and vegetable growing, explain conditions and trade shipments, teach poultry-raising and cattle-feeding, organize creameries for the manufacture of cheese and butter, and explain new business methods to merchants who are slow and ignorant in the matter of conducting their affairs." An agent of the railway will visit every town along the line a certain number of times every year to see what he can do to quicken trade. Finally, in the great centers there are special agents who "look after incoming shipments, and work for the interests of the merchants and farmers by finding a market for their products." Examples are given showing how the railways are able to impart, and do impart, information of the highest value to the farmers, such as puts them in the way of getting greatly improved returns from their land.

Of course, the railways want business, but it is eminently satisfactory when one party who wants business uses his best efforts on behalf of another in order that by making him prosperous he himself may prosper. When things get into this shape they are all right, as the phrase is. The accepted definition of a perfect action is one which benefits all who are parties to it. Things are on a much better foundation when people are mutually benefiting one another, each primarily in his own interest, than when it is all philanthropy on one side and passive acceptance of benefits on the other. Philanthropy is an uncertain thing, and its effects are uncertain. Its quality will take, in general, a good deal of training; but business, on an honest and reciprocally helpful basis, is good all through.

It is a happy circumstance that there are natural laws and forces at work which tend to produce a healthful social equilibrium. The true statesman is he who is on the watch to discern these forces and these laws, resolved that if he can not aid their operation he shall at least throw no obstacle in the way of their activity. The amount of harm that is done by coming between people who would be certain to arrange their business relations satisfactorily, if they were only left to do it without interference, can hardly be estimated. Man is fundamentally a social animal, and he wants, if he can possibly get it, the good opinion of his fellows. This is a principle which legislation too much overlooks, but it is one on which, as we believe, the future progress of society depends, and which, in spite of the blunders of legislators, will more and more assert itself as the years go on.