« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
To give it results is to give it life, and the introduction of the element of work is literally breathing into a moribund system the breath of life. It could be defended, if upon no other ground, as the best means of indicating what the world ought to know. For art, in the last analysis, rests upon science. Even the most empirical art is not the outcome of chance, but of knowledge acquired through experience. And if we give to the term "utility" the breadth of meaning that properly belongs to it, no knowledge which cannot be utilized is worth conferring. This canon, even with the most liberal construction, would still sweep away a large amount of the current education, to which far more time and energy are devoted than would be consumed in reducing all the useful knowledge conferred to productive practice.
The word "training" seems to be admirably calculated to express the central thought in the new education. Nothing is more familiar than the immense difference between the trained and the untrained faculties. It is all the difference between "eyes and no eyes." Whatever one's practical interests require to be attended to, that will be observed with an accuracy and minuteness which often astonish the uninitiated. But the faculties are specialized, and each one sees only what concerns him. The scientific habit widens the scope of this minute observation, but not beyond the specialty of each investigator. Thus, the lumberman can accurately describe the bark and the wood of any tree with which he is acquainted, but if asked the shape of the leaf he can give no idea of it. The botanist can describe the whole tree, but he cannot tell by what insects it is infested. This the entomologist can do, although he can give but a vague account of the tree. It has been well said that, keen as are the senses of the North American Indians in observing nature, there never was an Indian who could distinguish the two dwarf willows of the White Mountains from each other. Animals are also close observers, but only of what specially interests them. In traveling through a country horses see only horses and dogs. see only dogs, but these they see before men become aware of their presence. Wild animals are very knowing, but their acuteness is confined to the pursuit of subsistence and the escape from danger. In every case it is the result of training in the
school of experience, in which, under certain circumstances, the intensity of perception may be made to approach those exalted hypnotic states in which the senses as well as the other faculties become capable of performing what seem to be miracles. And this sharpening of the human faculties may as well take place in the direction of perceiving utilities in the objects and phenomena of nature as in the narrower fields above mentioned. The lumberman, the savage, the horse, the dog, and the wild animal observe those things, and no others, that are, from the standpoint of each, practical, and this sense of the practical constitutes a school in which these acute perceptions are trained. It is not radically different with the trained scientific specialist. He simply has an expanded conception of the practical, which in all cases is that which satisfies the demands of a being, whether those demands be low and simple or high and complex.
To those who can rise to the contemplation of society as a conscious organism of the highest and most complex character, and who understand what its progress consists in, as above defined, it must be obvious that the most eminently practical of all things is the subjugation of nature to man. Thus far this has been accomplished empirically, at hap-hazard, and, as it were, by accident. The educational training of the mind and hand together on a grand scale in the public schools, through the conscious action of nationalities throughout the civilized world, is the first effort ever made by society to lift the work of civilization out of the empirical groove and place it upon the high plane of systematic science. And if the movement continues, as there is every reason to believe it will continue, there is no cause to doubt that we shall see, upon a scale commensurate with civilization itself, all the difference which has ever attended the transfer of any human art from the stage of raw empiricism to that of organized science.
LESTER F. WARD.
THE BUGBEAR OF TRUSTS.
THE most prominent economic development now engaging public attention is, undoubtedly, the rapid multiplication of "trusts." The use of the word trust in its present popular significance is of recent date. A trust may be defined as a more or less intimate combination of business corporations or manufacturers for supposed mutual advantage. These different interests unite and agree upon a proportionate representation for each member, and also upon an amount of aggregate capitalization, and certificates of stock are then issued in due proportion to each of the various component organizations. Proper officers and an executive board are elected, who have full powers of management, including the purchase of raw material, the regulation of production, and the supervision of selling prices, terms, and conditions. A trust usually embraces only companies or individuals engaged in producing a single article of merchandise, or a class of such articles, although in a few cases, like the unusually compact Standard Oil Trust, a much wider variety of business is transacted. (The rapid formation and growth of these gigantic combinations is popularly looked upon with apprehension, for it is believed that their object is to destroy or greatly lessen the forces of competition, to consolidate, monopolize, and often to restrict, production, and thereby to enhance prices beyond what would be possible under the free and elastic natural law of supply and demand. Such an extensive and novel economic development is well calculated to cause alarm, and the question as to its possible extension and its possibilities for mischief is one of general interest. Can a trust be so planned as virtually to destroy competition, or are there in the business world natural laws and inherent limitations that will bind this "strong man" and make him comparatively harmless? The general investigation of this system now going on in both national and State legislative
bodies, through special committees, is an index of the interest taken in this subject by citizens of every class. It is, however, a fact that such legislative investigations are often prompted by a mixture of motives, the desire for information being frequently tempered by considerations of party or personal political advantage, and even by demagogism pure and simple. Such motives often are so apparent in political investigations that their results are not always above suspicion, and are usually discounted by the most enlightened public opinion. From the nature of the case the average legislator cannot be an economic expert, and he often forms his conclusions from temporary symptoms and surface indications, rather than from an intelligent appreciation of underlying principles. In order that the truth may be evolvedx and just conclusions reached, it is necessary that an impartial examination of the principles of the trust system be made, and their relation to the rules of a sound political economy determined.
In order to give this subject fair treatment, we must avoid falling into the popular habit of condemning every organization that is great, without regard to its inherent character. Wex ought also to examine any system on its merits, rather than mainly on its possible abuses. All human institutions, even X when meritorious in themselves, have their quota of abuses. Their magnitude is a question of expediency and economy, and not of ethical quality. Our complex and highly organized civilization could not exist were it not for the potency of great organic units, the component parts of which have been fitted together from dissimilar elements. There is much greater economy, and less relative friction, in the movement of one great wheel than of several small ones. Where are the true limitations of such productive force and of such economy to be found? If trusts are to be condemned, it must be on some other ground than that of mere magnitude. There has been, in some respects, a great X change in the consensus of opinion of the best economic authorities during the last two decades. When the movement first commenced for the consolidation of independent railroads into great trunk lines and systems, it was regarded as very objectionable, and as likely to produce undue concentration of power.
has since been generally admitted that, by this means, not only. has the service rendered to the public been greatly cheapened, but that its convenience, rapidity, and comfort also have been wonderfully enhanced. It is a case of the "survival of the fittest," and of a development of the lower into the higher; and all this has taken place not by chance, or because of any local or temporary reasons, but in obedience to the pressure and behest of unvarying natural law. In no other way could such a degree of perfection in appliances, rapidity, and safety have been secured. Modern convenience, comfort, and luxury are the results of the law of combination and consolidation. A great railroad system
can render to the public a service immeasurably superior in luxury, cheapness, speed, and safety to that which would be possible with the distinct corporations before consolidation. Many other examples might be noted to show the beneficent working of this law. The popular prejudice against its operation is un practical and illogical, and is due to the prevalence of an unwholesome sentimentalism.
Does the trust system promise any such measure of utility as that just noted in the case of railroad consolidations, or are the principles involved quite dissimilar? While the possible harmful power of trusts is vastly overrated, we shall find, upon further study, that the trust system has in it no such possible advantages as those which characterize railroad and other more closely compacted organizations. Only a short time will be required to develop its weak points, and, notwithstanding popular apprehension, it will be found that such combinations cannot rise superior to supply and demand, action and reaction, worldwide competition, and all the natural forces which, though silent, are sovereign and continuous. There are penalties for the violation of natural laws, and, though often apparently slow, they are sure, because inherent in the nature of things. Indirect reg ulative influences and unexpected compensations make their presence felt, and finally assert their supremacy over all artificial combinations. The power of a great combination to restrict production, and to advance prices of product to a point above the normal standard, may temporarily prevail, just as a weight can be lifted by artificial means, and made to overcome, for the time