Popular Science Monthly/Volume 45/September 1894/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

SIR: On reading Mr. McPherson's paper in your July number, and in view of the present strike, I am more than ever impressed with the social importance of the central idea which I endeavored to set forth in a paper, Corporations and Trusts, sent for your consideration last winter. At this time I desire to call your attention to what seems to me to be an entirely unwarrantable position assumed by Mr. McPherson.

After showing that there is a general tendency toward specialization by the evolutionary working of natural laws, he assumes that it has been and is wise to still further specialize by formation of corporations and trusts—that is, by artificial means. On page 296 he says, "This industrial aggregation is a natural and inevitable step of industrial evolution that therefore can not be but beneficial in its final results." So far as the aggregation is the result of natural laws, not statutory laws, this may be so; but to the natural aggregation, with the hardships and advantages incident thereto, there has all along been an unnatural aggregating power at work. I refer to the laws permitting the formation of corporations for business purposes. I hold that natural processes weed out the weak and unfitted fast enough and with sufficient attendant pain and contention. Natural aggregation and natural competition may be well, and their results on the whole are probably beneficial; but citing facts in proof of these things, or calling our attention to evolutionary doctrines of what natural laws have accomplished, does not even tend to prove that legislative enactments help to produce a beneficial aggregation or specialization. The sociological part of evolution comes pretty near establishing that all such enactments are of very doubtful propriety. That the law permitting the formation of corporations for business purposes has been more productive of bad than good results seems to me very probable, and that therefore it is relatively wrong, and never intended, on the whole, to produce "beneficial results," or "aggregations" that were beneficial.

Mr. McPherson certainly fails to show any such beneficial results and proofs thereof. The fact is that natural laws are exact, and the pain and pleasure or both are commensurate, exact, and just, and tend to work beneficially on the whole; whereas any and all legal enactments are more or less inexact, and no such perfect degree of justice, pain, and pleasure follows; frequently what follows is almost wholly injustice.

For the great mass of people to accommodate themselves to this "aggregation" as fast as natural laws would force it is to tax them to their utmost limit of endurance; but when we artificially stimulate this "aggregation" we have passed beyond their power or ability to maintain their peace, and strikes, bloodshed, and untold misery are among the results. Much, if not all, of this open contention and misery would be avoided if only the natural aggregating causes produced effects. It is the artificial "aggregating" force of corporations that has so overloaded the national stomach with its "aggregations," combines, and trusts; and now that stomach is in violent upheaval, trying to free itself.

Free competition is well, and so are laws preserving it in peace; but laws which assume to be able to help natural processes are and always have been relatively bad, and in some instances very bad.

If legislation permitting the formation of private or business corporations has increased the aggregating process and contributed to (or produced) the cause of trusts and strikes—and Mr. McPherson seems to grant that it has, which is just what I attempted to show, among other things, in my paper—then such legislation is something the afflicted classes have just cause to complain of.

The great importance of the question, and the suffering and the pending crisis, are my excuses for calling your attention a second time to this matter; and, also, as I believe, when recognized, errors are not allowed to go uncorrected in your monthly.

I remain very truly yours,
Charles Whedon.
Medina, N. Y., July 10, 1894.