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saving inventions to a few, and outdated methods and materials are perforce used by most. Further, Big Business can afford to maintain laboratories and experts for the investigation of new inventions and methods. It passes fewer positions on, "in the family,” to inefficient workers and managers, and offers more opportunity for the young man or woman of brains but without business conections. In these and other ways, a completely organized business can serve the public better than cut-throat business, in most cases, can.
It is, of course, not always true that Big Business is more efficient than small-scale business. It depends upon the particular nature of the article manufactured or sold. Some businesses are in their nature local-as, a street-car system, a lighting-system. In other cases, as in the matter of coal, steel, oil, fertilizers, etc., the whole world should be organized as one economic community. But whether its sphere is local or national or world-wide, the ideal of Efficiency demands that every business should, within its sphere, be free from waste and duplication of effort. This implies the elimination of the sort of competition wherein rivals seek to perform the same service. There may still be much rivalry between the different departments of a given business, between different plants, between diffierent producers or salesmen. But it will be a rivalry in the performance of cooperating tasks, not the sort of rivalry in which one man's success means another man's failure.
The gain through this steering of effort into cooperative instead of antagonistic work is not merely material, it is mental and spiritual. Competitive business encourages hardness of heart and penalizes kindness. Man is pitted against man, not in a generous spirit of emulation, as in competitive sports, but in a veritable struggle for existence. Legislation and government regulation can eliminate some of the more unscrupulous and anti-social acts devised in this struggle but it can never put an end to the manifold ways in which, under a competitive régime, one man or firm will selfishly seek to get the better of its competitors. The result of this struggle is, as we all know, a constant series of business failures, each meaning an economic loss to the community, often of considerable magnitude; and each meaning God only knows how much heartache and despair.
It is often thought that this high tension under which competitive business lives—this perpetual fear of failure and this constant impulse to get the better of rivals—makes for a greater expenditure of energy and initiative; that monopolistic business tends to become slack and unenterprising, through the relaxing of this pressure. The results achieved by the “trusts" in this country do not seem to bear out this contention; if there is a diminution of energy from this cause, its baneful effect is more than counterbalanced by the gains. It may be said, however, that it is neither normal nor desirable for human beings to live under such a strain as competitive business often entails, and that enough motives remain-pride in achievement, promotion and retention of position, increase in product and hence in financial return, and so on-to keep human energies whipped to the degree desirable. A more democratic control of business will undoubtedly tap new sources of energy and interest. And if, in the end, we should find that a completely organized industrial system was somewhat more easy-going than the feverish pace of some contemporary businesses, we must remember that human welfare is a bigger thing than material productivity. Freedom from strain, and a sense of security, are worth paying for.
But there still remains the question, If the business of the country is thus fully organized, will not the benefits accrue to a small class, and further accentuate the inequalities of wealth and power already so marked? The remarkable achievements of our great corporations have had as their corollary the accumulation of great private fortunes, with a consequent power over journalism, politics, and legislation that has awakened considerable popular distrust. It is not that we have had, usually, to pay higher prices for what we buy from the trusts. The old notion that competition suffices to keep prices down has gone by the board. The experience of recent years shows that there is as much profiteering by small concerns as by Big Business. When credit can be got, and the general impression of scarcity becomes widespread, manufacturers and dealers will seize their opportunity for raising prices without any formal conspiracy or co-operation. In general, with certain exceptions, the formation of trusts has lowered rather than raised the price of commodities to the consumer.
But even if the public is actually no worse off, it is far more inclined to resent the concentrated profiteering of a few big firms than the more diffused prosperity of many smaller firms. The profit-taking is far more conspicuous, and benefits fewer people. Moreover, there is a sense engendered of being at the mercy of these industrial autocrats which is repug. nant to our democratic sensibilities. And of course, there is a continual protest against absorption or elimination, on the part of the small manufacturers or dealers who find themselves elbowed out or threatened with ruin by their bigger rivals. The process by which the great corporations have won their power has often been unscrupulous, and still oftener is the result of a struggle which, however fair according to our current standards of business practice, has actually resulted in the ruin of their former rivals.
The effect upon the employees of this organization of business into large units has many aspects. The wealthy corporation can usually afford to pay better wages, to build more sanitary and comfortable factories, to make working conditions in many ways pleasanter. Its conspicuousness makes it more liable to public criticism, and it is apt to feel more keenly the need of heeding such criticism. In many cases "welfare work” is being carried on by our big firms which would never have been possible to the smaller houses.
On the other hand, the big corporation has so much more power, that when it chooses to lower wages, to oppose the unionization of employees, or in any other way to resist the desires of labor, it is a far more formidable antagonist than the smaller competing firms. There is less personal contact of employer with employees; it is usually harder for the employee with a grievance to get his case before his employer. And the ownership of stock by absentee shareholders makes a continuous urge for dividends which sometimes results in a policy that is inhuman in the extreme.
The opposition to Big Business comes, then, from several quarters. It comes from the owners of small factories and shops, who do not want to give up their independence and become parts of a larger concern. It comes from labor-unions, that fear the increase of power of the employers, which may make it harder for them to succeed in their efforts to get fairer remuneration and better working conditions. It comes from the public, that sees with apprehension this concentration of wealth and power. The result has been a series of "anti-trust” laws, and repeated pronouncements like that of the Democratic party platform of 1912, which declared that “the control by any one corporation of so large a proportion of industry as to make it a menace to competitive conditions” is "indefensible and intolerable," and demanded “the enactment of such additional legislation as may be necessary to make it impossible for a private monopoly to exist in the United States."
The lessons of the Great War, however, were in no respect more striking than in their emphasis upon the need of the pooling of interests, and the incapacity of a divided industrial régime. Temporarily, men worked together under a unified governmental plan, and achieved results in production and distribution which amazed us all. Almost as much energy was spent in organizing industry and commerce as in moving armies and fighting the enemy. A machinery of co-operation was built up, an economic integration, which, in spite of the drawing away of several million young men from industry, speeded up production to a point far above pre-war possibilities. We have since drifted back into much of the old disorder of effort and undisciplined confusion. But the lessons of the War have graved themselves deeply upon many minds.
It is true, of course, that the government control exercised over firms, small and great, and tolerated in the emergency, became irksome when the emergency had passed. It is also true that much blunder