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regulative force and combines to secure what profits it considers just. It does not matter that the devices raise the cost of the necessaries of life to the consumer; it does not matter that the combinations are forbidden by constitutional law and denounced by the courts as conspiracies. Constitutions and economic law must be set aside to secure to this single form of capital its sacred dividends; and the astounding nature of the claim shines out of the fact that the only power by which these corporations are able to suppress competition, lies in their possession of the routes of transportation, obtained by the exercise of the most supreme act of sovereignty in their favor, upon the condition, as declared by a hundred decisions, that it is used to establish public highways.
The utter viciousness and falsity of this idea, from a purely economic view, must be laid aside to consider the far vaster and more imperative subject of its effect on our social order. For, besides the injustice, illegality, and restrictive influence upon commerce which is to be charged to it, the policy of which the anthracite coal pool is at once the climax and exemplar, shows its grarest aspect in its direct influence for the disadvantage and discontent of labor. We wonder at the frequency of denunciations against capital, and cannot understand the paradox of socialist, and eren anarchist, opinions under a popular government. Yet that wonder is blind, and we are likely to fail of any understanding either of the merits or the dangers of the social problem until we perceive in such combinations as these that their most fatal effect lies in the lesson that they teach to labor. The workingman in the East finds that he must buy fuel to warm his family a: such prices as capital chooses to fix in its own interest, and the miner in the coal districts must accept what wages the same power may choose to allow him. Upon the ordinary laborer the ect of this is simply to create a blind sense that he is at the mercy of capital, and is allowed just as much fuel or wages as ay suffice to sustain him at his work. But the more the laborer understands of this policy the more clearly does he see that its wurkings are unequal, and that the inequality invariably operates to his disadvantage. The example under consideration presents to the masses the following principles as the basis of corporate action :
First-Capital, organized into great corporations, must be protected against competition for the sake of earning such profits voL. COLIT.-No. 362.
as it considers proper, while the laborer is left subject to that influence.
Second-It must be permitted by this means to enhance the price of a necessary of life to the consumers on the one hand, and to crowd down the wages of the producing laborers on the other.
Third–The principles of constitutional and economic law alike, with which this policy collides, must be suspended in the interest of “business prosperity.”
Such theories present business, not in the true and beneficial light of seeking under competition to perform services at the least possible cost, but in the false and oppressive light of extorting the greatest possible profits from the masses by the abolition of competition. They eliminate justice from the system of social economy and reduce that science to an absurdity. One of the gravest features of modern development is the concentration of large masses of capital in control of various industries. This tendency is justified in most cases by the ability of the concentrated capital to render the services or manufacture the products more cheaply, by reason of its strength and organization. Yet when this concentration is carried to its utmost extent, attaining the strength of hundreds of millions of dollars and the perfect organization of half a dozen great railways, we are met by the declaration that they, and they alone, will be ruined by competition. Of all forms of capital, the most thoroughly concentrated cannot endure the competition that every small farmer and retail shopkeeper in the land must meet; and the cheapness and enlarged production to be obtained by concentration resolves itself into high prices maintained by an arbitrary restriction of the supply! This phenomenal theory displays itself in the most extravagant contrast, by bringing the exemption from competition for which the greatest corporations combine, into close contact with the full competition that acts upon
the hundred thousand miners who seek to earn their wages, and the ten million consumers who seek to buy their coal. The laborer finds competition working against him and not against the capital which rules the employment of his labor or the supply of his fuel. When meetings of capitalists use their control of the transportation routes to advance the price of coal to consumers at the rate of $15,000,000 a year, by the lever of enforced idleness for the miners, with a loss in wages of $10,000,000 more, is it any wonder that labor agitators find ready listeners to the declaration that the system which permits such things is framed solely for the benefit of capital ? When competition is thus made inoperative against the most powerful aggregations of wealth, and put in force against humble miners and needy consumers, can we blame those classes for regarding it as the enemy and oppressor of labor ?
But the mischief is not half ended with spreading a false idea concerning the operation of a great commercial force. Next to the stupendous cruelty and selfishness of “ corners” in the necessaries of life, their most vital harm is in the lesson they teach of hatred and contempt for the system of laws under which such wrongs are inflicted upon the masses. The vast body of workingmen who are brought into contact with this combination suppose that it is upheld by the law. They see its purposes carried out successfully. The price of coal is put up; its supply is restricted; and the miners stand idle one-third of their time. The property of the corporations is protected by the law, and their managers are leading members of a society in which the law is supposed to be supreme. Is it strange that the uninstructed workingman, seeing these things in his half-filled stove or his slender wages, should come to the conclusion that the law makes the incorporations of capital the masters of the people ? Does it any longer seem inexplicable that the Socialist is able to make needy laborers believe that our system of government is an ally of wealth and an enemy of the poor? And if it were true that our laws gave capital the right to exact arbitrary prices from the public and to order labor to stand idle for the increase of its profits, could we say that the Socialist is wrong?
The case is better than that-and it is worse. It is better, because, as has already been shown by the declaration of the highest court of Pennsylvania, the law denounces such offenses as criminal conspiracies, and the principles of the legislation on which these corporations were given their existence carefully guards against their employment for such injurious purposes. It is worse, because the supineness of the people, the subservience of politicians, and the benumbing influence of great wealth on the administration of justice, have allowed the laws to be defied and the essential conditions on which these corporations obtained their existence to be violated and ignored. The fatuity of this policy is nowhere more apparent than in this, that it sets the example of violating the laws. Such lessons “ teach bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague the inventor.” The very elements of modern society most concerned in stability and good order not only place before workingmen the example of over-riding law, but force them to imitate it. The laws of the country and the principles of trade are set aside for the sake of giving capital the sacred dividends it considers its due ; and workingmen learn in this that they can ignore the same laws for the right, no less sacred to them, of sustaining their families. Corporations nullify the constitutional restrictions placed about them; and the burden of the violation bearing especially upon the laborer, it teaches him to break over his constitutional restraints, by riots and boycotts. Only a few weeks ago, a New York court enjoined the restrictive work of a musical trades union on the broad ground that combinations in restraint of trade were null and void, and in the past year trades unionists have been sent to prison for the form of conspiracy known as the boycott. At the same time this combination of capital flourishes unchecked, and only last October it was announced that the coal railroads had put a Western firm under the boycott of capital for refusing to advance the prices of coal, and would cut off its supply. With the lesson set before them by this false and destructive principle, that the laws which restrain vast aggregations of capital are null and void ; that conspiracies forbidden to trades unions are practiced with impunity by combinations of railways, the natural result is to fan the discontent of workingmen into the fuel of riots, to make them support their strikes by violent attacks upon all who attempt to work against their will ; to drive them to the teachings, not only of theorists who declare that relief must be sought by peaceful and Utopian Socialism, but of the inflammatory demagogues who declare that the entire system of society is an oppression, and that the rights of labor can only be secured by overturning the whole fabric into a chaos of revolution and anarchy.
Such doctrines and their provocation are alike fatally wrong. It is not true that competition is an enemy of labor. The effort of workingmen should be not so much to abolish the competition that acts upon their wages, as to summon to their relief the competition of a free demand for their work. Were there the same competition for the labor of the anthracite coal miners that
there is for the wages paid by the coal companies on the one hand, and the same competition in supplying fuel to the consumers as there is among the consumers to obtain that fuel on the other, capital would no longer command the situation. The public need, as well as the need of labor, is to invoke the aid of the law against the alliance of corporations, which, while availing itself of the competition of both miner and consumer, abolishes that principle in its own favor, and sets its united strength between a hundred thousand competitors of the former class, and ten millions of the latter. For it is no less false that our laws permit or ignore such attempts of aggregated capital to impose burdens upon the people. The fault is not in the law, but in the neglect to uphold and enforce the law. The very principles on which this government was founded furnish the complete remedy for every such threat to popular welfare. As I have endeavored to show exhaustively in another form, the constitutional conditions on which the railways obtained their existence aru declared by the greatest jurists to forbid the use of even legislative power to establish exclusive privileges, or to maintain any measure of reward for capital than the only just ne of con petition. The remedy lies in an appeal to what Chicf Justice Merton, a half century ago, called “our constitutional prohibition of monopolies," and the enforcement of the obligations of the railways as public highways. But if corporate influences stifle that appeal, and continue to set the example of lawlessness which first produced its results in the Mollie Maguire outrages among the laborers of this very combination, what will be the result ? Are the excesses of the French revolution to be charged to the ignorant and desperate people who revolted from tyranny, or to the tyranny that ground them down so long that their rising could only be a frenzy of ignorance and despair ? The red spectre of Nihilism is begotten by the oppressiun of absolutism; and if Socialism vexes this country, its paternity must be traced to the illegal privileges usurped by great combinations of capital. If combinations to enhance the price of fuel ; combinations to establish monopolies in light; combinations to keep up the price of meat, and combinations to impose the burden of hundreds of millions of watered railway capital upon commerce, and through it upon labor, shall continue to concentrate the wealth of society into few hands, and set the example of contempt for law and justice, until the masses are