Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

naturally more abundant supply of coal. There are, however, signs of an approaching transformation in the conditions of industrial production.

Within the last twenty years science has disclosed the possibility of utilizing electricity as a source of energy for industrial purposes. Italy, the home of Volta and Galvani, has left indelible traces in this most recent development of electric science. Pacinotti and Ferraris have made startling discoveries in this field. It is as though the genius of the race had, through these two men, shown the way by which the economic renaissance of the country was to be accomplished. It is indeed from electricity that Italy has to expect the fullest development of her potentialities as an industrial power. The problem, the great national problem of Italy, as Nitti puts it, is the substitution for coal of another source of energy, electricity, or the so-called “white coal.”

Nature, while making Italy poor in coal, has greatly favored her in point of waterfalls and waterways. The great coal mines of the world will certainly be exhausted some day; those of England within the next sixty years, according to the calculations of Sir W. Armstrong, of Stanley Jevons, of the parliamentary committees of 1866 and 1873, and, most recently of all, of Lozé. Water, however, will always continue to flow from the perennial source of the mountains. This very fact will radically change the conditions of industrial supremacy. The coalproducing countries which so far have been in control will see the end of their primacy through the exhaustion of their coalbeds, while the countries which, like Italy, have a wealth of potential energy stored up in their waterfalls will come to the front as the new centers of industrial production.

From calculations made by such an authority as Senator Colombo, the well-known engineer, it is estimated that the amount of energy available from this source would be about three million horse-power, while a committee of the Italian Senate in 1894 raised this estimate to five millions. Now, if we consider that the great industrial countries like England, Germany, France, and the United States do not employ more than from three to four million horse-power in all their industries, it becomes apparent that a great future is open to Italy by the substitution of electricity for steam as a source of energy for manufacturing purposes.

1 E. LOZÉ, Les charbons britanniques et leur épuisement (Paris, 1900), 2 vols.

Iron has shared with coal the privilege of being a great factor in modern industry, but aluminium is rapidly coming to the front as a possible substitute for it. Light as glass, resistant as iron, aluminium has all the requisites to insure its final triumph. Since aluminium is almost exclusively obtained electrolytically from alumina, the establishment of a vast system of hydro-electric plants in the way suggested by Nitti would greatly facilitate the production of the new metal. Thus, another cause of industrial inferiority — lack of iron — would be eliminated.

In conclusion, the vital issue for Italy is her transformation into a great industrial power. The work already accomplished in this direction gives evidence of the untiring energy and the complex aptitudes of the race. If only the efforts of both government and nation were strenuously bent toward the practical solution of the technical problems involved in the proposed substitution of electricity for coal, Italy, with her immense reservoir of water power, with her ever-increasing population, with her healthy current of emigration destined to open up new markets and outlets for her production, would soon be in a position to become a prominent factor in the industrial movement of the world. The twentieth century would thus see the most striking instance yet witnessed of Latin vitality.

DR. GUSTAVO Tosti,

Royal Vice-Consul of Italy. New York

THE TRUST PROBLEM RESTUDIED.

RECENT events seem to call for a reconsideration of the trust question. The Sherman anti-monopoly act, a dead letter for some years, has been revived with considerable vigor and evidence of good faith. President Roosevelt is doing what, almost on the eve of his succession to his present office, he had declared to be necessary "shackling cunning as force has been shackled." He has, indeed, been severely criticised for his action in the railway “merger” case and in that of the meat packers, and "high financial interests” have manifested deep displeasure at his disturbance of business. But the generality of intelligent citizens have commended his course, even while questioning the value of the net results of the anti-trust crusade.

This is not the place to dwell on elementary propositions or expose the miserable fallacies of plutocratic organs. But it is proper to premise the discussion now entered upon by stating that matters of policy and expediency are not within the discretion of the executive department of the national government so far as it is concerned with enacted legislation. Powerful as the president is, he cannot set aside the most trivial or most objectionable law of the United States. “He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed," says the constitution, and his oath of office leaves no doubt as to his duty with respect to the enforcement of the will of the people and of Congress. To say .or imply that the president is entitled to disregard any statute whatever is to advocate usurpation, official anarchy, and the destruction of the government established by the founders of the republic.

That the president has no right to repeal or suspend any law in favor of particular interests or classes is another thing that would need no saying, did not gentlemen friendly to him assume to say, by way of apology or reassurance, that he has no intention of extending his anti-trust crusade and carrying it, for example, into the anthracite coal region. Such statements impute to the president designs flagrantly illegal and intolerable. Discrimination in legislation is denounced as unjust; discrimination in applying or enforcing law is far more vicious and inexcusable. The president cannot be expected to prosecute alleged trusts where the evidence is insufficient, but he is expected to investigate and make honest effort to obtain evidence in any case where there is reasonable ground for suspecting monopolistic abuse or oppression.

So much in reply to counsel-darkening sophistry and Bedlamite reasoning. But the question arises : What is likely to be the effect of the renewed agitation ? The president has nothing to do with possible, probable, or certain effects of a law, but Congress has to do with all that, for it determines the policy of the government. And as Congress is supposed to carry out the will of the people, it is important to inquire whether the popular notions as regards trusts and monopolies have undergone any material modification since the enactment of the Sherman law. If they have, then what settlement of the question do the people now favor ? If they are at sea, perplexed, dubious, and anxious for light and guidance, what do the "schools,” the thinkers and reformers, have to offer them ?

The fact is that the average man and the average " practical politician" are helpless and hopeless in the presence of the complex and difficult trust question. Ten years ago the solution seemed exceedingly simple: abolish trusts by law. Radically restrictive acts were the order of the day. All combinations, contracts, and agreements in restraint of trade or competition were made illegal. Construing the federal anti-trust law, the Supreme Court held that even reasonable restraint of commerce was contrary to public policy. A number of combinations and pools have been dissolved by the federal and state authorities, but have these successful prosecutions had any discouraging effect on the trust movement ? The answer is familiar to all.

In 1898 a relatively harmless traffic association was declared to be unlawful. A year or so later another railroad association was ordered by the Supreme Court to go out of existence. But did greater competition follow in the railway sphere? The annual jeremiads of the Interstate Commerce Commission set forth the actual results. The "community of interest" device

. was soon invented, and this has since developed into community of ownership. Consolidation has been steady and continuous, and the organization of the Northern Securities Co. was neither an exceptional occurrence nor a climax. The commission does not hesitate to say that railway combination cannot and ought not to be obstructed, and that the only way to prevent abuse and oppression of the public is to recognize the futility of legislation designed to secure competition in transportation and legalize pooling under certain restrictions. The chairman of the commission, Mr. Knapp, is beginning to discuss government ownership and operation of the railways as a feasible alternative.

What is called "municipal socialism" has almost become orthodox and practical politics, for even conservative councils and mayors are now insisting, if not upon immediate assumption by municipalities of the functions now discharged by public-service corporations, then upon explicit reservation in all grants or contracts with such corporations of the privilege of taking over their properties after a certain limited term. The leading Republican newspaper of the country, the New York Tribuni', objects to the application of the term “socialism" to municipal ownership and operation, and states sententiously that "public ownership of public utilities is not socialism." In view of these illustrative facts, Mr. Knapp is amply warranted in predicting the early appearance of definite demands for government operation of railroads in political platforms. Telegraphs, telephones, and all other “public utilities” (what a vague and elastic term!) will follow or accompany the railroads. Can there be any reasonable doubt as to the origin of this remarkable change in public sentiment with regard to natural monopoly? If competition is to disappear, and combination is to become general, the argument for state control and management can hardly fail to appear overwhelming to the general mind.

But it must be recognized that, philosophically as well as popularly, the problem of natural monopoly is distinct from the broader question of industrial combination. Few now advocate

« PreviousContinue »