Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/185

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IN the movement for the conservation of our natural resources, which is now rapidly gaining strength in our eastern states, as well as in the national government, the influence of many factors must be taken into consideration, and the question may very well arise as to whether our representative form of government, as exemplified in our national congress, our state legislatures, and city councils, is sufficiently far sighted to cope with them. Can these cumbersome bodies, representing, as they do, the contending interests of the day, and having their eyes so closely focused on the present, look into the distant future and pass judiciously on measures affecting the next generation?

It has been a well-recognized policy, on the part of our local governments, to exempt new industries from taxation for a period of years on the ground that such an inducement would counterbalance any advantages that other towns had to offer, and that the new industry would be an unquestioned asset to the community. Very few industries, however, are so constituted that artificial benefits can compete with natural favorable conditions; such as nearness to the supply of raw material, transportation facilities, water power, and a ready supply of efficient labor. Even if these could be counterbalanced, the practise of tax exemption has become so general that it is quite as easy for an industry to secure it in one locality as another, and the result is a practise of community throat-cutting without any appreciable benefits. So long as the practise is tolerated it is, of course, impossible for single towns or cities to prosper without entering into this unfortunate scramble.

A still more important question is as to whether the proposed industries will be really beneficial to the locality in which they are established. They are, as a rule, beneficial or otherwise, according as they have the elements of permanency. That many lines of business of seeming permanency may fail, or after a few years' experience, remove to other places, is, of course, to be expected. So a business, which, by the nature of things, can exist only for a short time, may not be a damage to a community if it leaves that community no poorer than when it came. For example, a corn-canning factory may prosper in a