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it the substantial additions to the revenue which will finally accrue, and there may be disappointment to the enthusiasts who are so apt to hope too much from such legislation. But it will undoubtedly add largely to the public revenues as soon as it is fairly in operation, and the amount thus added will increase steadily year by year. The principle which this law establishes has come to stay. There will doubtless have to be additional legislation from time to time to perfect the system as its shortcomings are made evident in actual practice. But the corporations owning valuable public franchises must pay their full and proper share of the public burdens.
"The franchise tax law is framed with the intent of securing exact and equal justice, no more and no less. It is not in any way intended as a means for persecuting or oppressing corporations. It is not intended to cut down legitimate dividends; still less to cut down wages or to prevent a just return for the far-sighted business skill of some captain of industry who has been able to establish a public service greatly to the advantage of the localities concerned, where before his time men of less business capacity had failed. But it is intended that property which derives its value from the grant of a privilege by the public, shall be taxed proportionately to the value of the privilege granted. In enforcing this law, much tact, patience, resolution and judgment will be needed. All these qualities the State Board of Tax Commissioners have thus far shown. Their salaries are altogether inadequate, for the new law has immensely increased not only their responsibilities, but their work. They should be given not only the needed increase for themselves, but also an appropriation for an additional number of clerks and experts.
"During the year 1899 not a single corporation has received at the hands of the State of New York one privilege of any kind, sort, or description, by law or otherwise, to which it was not entitled, and which was not in the public interest; nor has corporate influence availed against any measure which was in the public interest. At certain times, and in certain places, corporations have undoubtedly exerted a corrupting influence in political life; but in this State for this year it is absolutely true, as shown by the history of every measure that has come before the Legislature from the franchise tax down, that no corporate influence has been able to prevail against the interests of the public."
Next was the "problem" of "the State and public utilities" and the Governor struck deep into his subject as is his habit, in the first sentence:
"It has become more and more evident of late years that the State will have to act in its collective capacity as regards certain subjects which we have been accustomed to treat as matters affecting the private citizen only, and, furthermore, it must exercise an increasing and more rigorous control over other matters which it is not desirable that it should directly manage." He continued: "It is neither possible nor desirable to lay down a general hard and fast rule as to what this control should be in all cases. There is no possible reason in pure logic why a city, for instance, should supply them with gas, any more than there is why the general government should take charge of the delivery of letters but not of telegrams. On the other hand, pure logic has a very restricted application to actual social and civic life, and there is no possible reason for changing from one system to the other simply because the change would make our political system in theory more symmetrical. Obviously it is undesirable that the government should do anything that private individuals could do with better results to the community. Everything that tends to deaden individual initiative is to be avoided, and unless in a given case there is some very evident gain which will flow from State or municipal ownership, it should not be adopted. On the other hand, when private ownership entails grave abuses, and where the work is of a kind that can be performed with efficiency by the State or municipality acting in its collective capacity, no theory or tradition should interfere with our making the change. There is grave danger in attempting to establish invariable rules; indeed, it may be that each case will have to be determined upon its own merits. In one instance a private corporation may be able to do the work best. In another the State or city may do it best. In yet a third, it may be to the advantage of everybody to give free scope to the power of some individual captain of industry.
"On one point there must be no step backward. There is a consensus of opinion that New York must own its own water supply. And legislation permitting private ownership should be annulled."
The treatment of "Modern industrial conditions" followed in the Governor's striking style.
"Nothing needs closer attention, nothing deserves to be treated with more courage, caution, and sanity, than the relations of the State to corporate wealth, and indeed to vast individual wealth. For almost every gain there is a penalty, and the great strides in the industrial upbuilding of the country, which have on the whole been attended with marked benefit, have also been attended by no little evil. Great fortunes are usually made under very complex conditions both of effort and of surrounding, and the mere fact of the complexity makes it difficult to deal with the new conditions thus created. The contrast offered in a highly specialized industrial community between the very rich and the very poor is exceedingly distressing; and while under normal conditions the acquirement of wealth by an individual is necessarily of great incidental benefit to the community as a whole, yet this is by no means always the case. In our great cities there is plainly in evidence much wealth contrasted with much poverty, and some of the wealth has been acquired, or is used, in a manner for which there is no moral justification.
"A profound political and social thinker has recently written: 'Wealth which is expended in multiplying and elaborating real comforts or even in pleasures which produce enjoyment at all proportionate to their cost, will never incite serious indignation. It is the colossal waste of the means of human happiness in the most selfish and most vulgar forms of social advertisement and competition that gives a force to passions which menace the whole future of our civilization.' But in continuance this writer points out that the only effectual check lies in the law of public opinion. Any attempt to interfere by statute in moral questions of this kind, by fettering the freedom of individual action, would be injurious to a degree far greater than is the evil aimed at. Probably the large majority of the fortunes that now exist in this country have been amassed, not by injuring mankind, but as an incident to the conferring of great benefits on the community,—whatever the conscious purpose of those amassing them may have been. The occasional wrongs committed or injuries endured are on the whole far outweighed by the mass of good which has resulted. The true questions to be asked are: Has any given individual been injured by the acquisition of wealth by any man? Were the rights of that individual, if they have been violated, insufficiently protected by law? If so, these rights, and all similar rights, ought to be guaranteed by additional legislation. The point to be aimed at is the protection of the individual against wrong, not the attempt to limit and hamper the acquisition and output of wealth.
"It is almost equally dangerous either to blink at evils and refuse to acknowledge their existence, or to strike at them in a spirit of ignorant revenge, thereby doing far more harm than is remedied. The need can be met only by careful study of conditions, and by action which, while taken boldy and without hesitation, is neither harmless nor reckless. It is well to remember, on the one hand, that the adoption of what is reasonable in the demands of reformers is the surest way to prevent the adoption of what is unreasonable; and, on the other hand, that many of the worst and most dangerous laws which have been put upon statute books have been put there by zealous reformers with excellent intentions."
The Trusts, the Governor said:
"This problem has a hundred phases. The relation of the capitalist and the wageworker makes one; the proper attitude of the State towards extreme poverty, another; the proper attitude of the State towards the questions of the ownership and running of so-called 'public utilities,' a third. But among all these phases, the one which at this time has the greatest prominence, is the question of what are commonly termed 'trusts,' meaning by the name those vast combinations of capital, usually flourishing by virtue of some monopolistic element, which have become so startlingly common a feature in