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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/532

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

COLLEGE STANDARDIZATION
By Professor W. LeCONTE STEVENS

WASHINGTON AND LEE UNIVERSITY

IN war between nations the standardization of armies is universally recognized to be the first essential of efficiency. The function of every leader, every fighter and every carrier is distinctly understood. Likewise in the domestic war of commerce, which is chronic, the organization of great corporations, with division of labor and singling of industrial functions, is the greatest promoter of both production and distribution. In theory the great corporation is a public blessing. In practise its beneficence has been somewhat concentrated, the benefit to the public being only incidental, but loudly proclaimed. The organized corporation receives from the state a charter, intended for the protection of the unorganized public. The corporation is justly held responsible to the state for the performance of the functions specified in its charter and for the avoidance of injustice to the public. The most troublesome problem of our country at present is connected with the enforcement of laws intended to protect the public from the greed of corporations, from false capitalization, from unjust discrimination in rates, from the corruption of legislation by indirect purchase of special privileges. Whether a tariff should be intended for national revenue or for protection to the special interests organized into great corporations is a question the settlement of which is already clear enough, but practically it may perhaps be reserved for a future generation. Whatever may be its settlement, the corporations are here to stay and no return to the simpler conditions of a half century ago can be expected. We are adapting ourselves to present conditions and in time this problem will be solved as others of no less magnitude have been solved by our fathers.

One of the real benefits to the public due to the existence of great corporations has been the development of a general demand for standardization. Everything must be measured that can be bought or sold. The results of work must be numerically compared; new units of measurement must be devised as soon as needed; secondary units must be derived from them; and familiarity with these must be readily attained by the public. Corporations must be compelled to give to the public a correct valuation of properties controlled, of profits earned, of wages paid, of business methods employed. Some corporations, such as national banks, have been for years already subjected to such regula-