« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
school, or the strawberry-festival. Granted, however, that, like most human concerns, the American railroad needs reformation, the very considerable question arises, Where shall we look for the reformer? It has not yet come, perhaps, to be a principle in economics that the safest and most expert administrator of a specialty is the one who has had the least practical experience thereof. But there nevertheless appears to be, if not an exact enunciation of such a principle, a by no means unusual tendency to such a practice. To take a familiar example : a great transatlantic steamship, en route from shore to shore, or a limited express train, with its costly freightage of packed Pullman, express, and baggage carriages, easily represents millions in money value, besides its human freightage. The captain, the conductor, the engineers, and crew are picked men, raised to their several responsibilities through every lower grade of drill and experience, adapted each to his part by long usuetude : who have been intrusted with all this precious burden by those who must answer with their fortunes, their liberty even, for the waste of its loss. Let the great steamship founder, the “limited" crash through a trestle-living or dead, these men will be found at their posts. But there will never fail of gifted gentlemen, eminent conversationalists, ready writers to the newspapers, (who happened to be in their downy beds while these men were perishing, but) who, nevertheless, will tell us exactly what this company and their picked employés should have done, and how the catastrophe might have been avoided. One cannot read very far into Mr. Hudson's “The Railways and the Republic” without coming across this same tendency to counsel and criticise in matters special and expert, as to which the self-elected critic and counsellor is specifically and universally ignorant and incompetent.
The problem of railway management and operation has grown so intricate, so vast, so complicated and enormous, that it is a maxim that no one man, whatever his habitude, knows “how to
a railroad.” The executive officer, the auditor, superintendent or actuary of twenty-five years' service, instead of having kept abreast of his employment, finds that his service has out
grown him, not in fact alone, but in proportion; and that he can deal with remote details only when concreted by his subordinates into results which in turn are his details. He is himself only the pendulum of the clock-work, the governor of the engine; without his co-operatives and assistants he is powerless, although at the outset of his quarter century he may have been equal to every item of his department. Take a single trunk line connecting the city of New York with that Western focus to which, like Rome, all roads lead—Chicago. Every one of its army of eighty thousand employés knows his duty: his duty, often duplicated, perhaps, yet not duplicated, since every item of circumstance must daily and hourly vary it. From the president to the trackwalker, no single individual could justify his employment for an instant, did he not, besides his routine, know precisely the single and only proper thing to do to save life and property in any contingency, foreseen or unforeseen; and, moreover, how in the performance not to swerve one atom below or above his exact prerogative. And if—in operation, the reciprocal duties of these eighty thousand must be exactly and incessantly performed in order that every passenger and every pound of freight shall reach its debarkation in safety-what single mind can grasp the relation of numberless such trunk-lines to the great public who trust their lives, persons, and property to them all ? Add to this situation that this public, having largely invested their fortunes in these very transporting lines, are dependent for its incomes from their prosperity. Does not the great ramification strike us as one rather too enormous for any single recipe to meet, or to be guided by any one infallible and inexorable rule of constant and rigid procedure ?
There is not a single criticism of railway management or outbreak of popular anti-railway feeling which has not its own perfectly well-known periodicity. As a rule, they lapse with time and disappear without exposition. But that all these criticisms and complaints should be carefully clipped, hoarded, pasted together, and sent out as a monograph signed by one name, is an occurrence so exceptional that its occasion might seem to warrant
a replication to the array, once for all. Especially when the volume impresses us at every paragraph as having been compiled by a gentleman who not only has never been engaged in the management of railways, operatively or financially, but has never discovered, in all the immense delicacy of mechanism which moves 8,778,581,061 of people one mile, and billions of dollars' worth of treasure in every direction across and along a continent in a single year, and supports a property representing $7,676,399,054 of securities, a single point for his admiration or even for his approval.
Archimedes had the world for a load and natural science for a lever; but even Archimedes was obliged to sigh for a place where. on to plant his fulcrum. It appears to me that, in this laborious work of five hundred closely printed octavo pages, what Mr. Hud són lacks most of all is a standpoint. He has a load, he has a grievance for a lever, but, since he can not himself float in space, he makes no impression on what he claims to be the burden to be moved. Mr. Hudson's want of standpoint is prominent at his very outset in his very title-page. He calls his book “The Railways and the Republic," thus antagonizing his two terms. But the grouping is vicious, to begin with; since railroads, whether re. garded as legal entities or as companies of individuals, are as much part and parcel of the republic as is Mr. Hudson himself. Starting upon this false major premise, Mr. Hudson proceeds in the first of his eleven chapters to give us the indictment, the remain. ing ten to be the counts of the particulars.
The title given to this indictment, “ The Problem of Railway Domination,” is again illicit. Where is the “ domination ” to be eliminated ? Frankly admitting that the present writer believes that railways belong to the persons whose money has built or pur
chased them, and that their quasi-public character is justified and satisfied by their honest performance, by the best methods that applied science up to date has furnished, of the duties of public transportation, he purposes from this standpoint to examine: first, Mr. Hudson's indictment as a whole, passing thereafter-as far as the limits of a single volume will allow-to the particulars exhibited.
According to Mr. Hudson, the railways of the United States either “dominate” at present, or propose sooner or later to “dominate," the republic. How? By being “gigantic monopolists," says Mr. Hudson. And how do they become gigantic monopolists ? By being gigantic corporations, controlled by men of altogether too enormous private fortunes. Now, we have always known that a railway was a corporation, and that some of our railways might fairly be called “gigantic.” But there is not one of these “gigantic” corporations which is, in any sense of the term known to dictionaries at least, a monopoly. To be exactly all-fours with the lexicographers, the only railways in the Union which are monopolies are countable on the fingers of one hand, and must be as insignificant in extent, capitalization, importance of terminals and every other characteristic, as they are in number. Everybody knows that a shipper or traveler from New York to any point in the United States has an abundant choice of routes before him. Whether his objective be Buffalo, New Orleans, or San Francisco, or any city or town large enough to make a dot on the
map, or any one of the ten thousand points reachable from every one of these, there are certainly half a dozen lines of railway at his option; and if there are two points in the United States between which there is but one means of transportation, it is because the points themselves are of such exceedingly minor importance that a second means has entirely failed to be a temptation to local capitalists. I once happened upon a railroad on the top of the Alleghany Mountains, five miles in length, called the Wilcox and BurningWell Railroad, running between a tannery and a saw-mill, which, as there was no other means of going from one to the other except by taking an axe and a compass and tempting the aboriginal
forest—might, I think, be fairly called a monopoly, especially since the owner of the railroad was also the owner of both the terminal tannery and the terminal saw-mill. But the great majority of American railways are, just now, competitors rather than monopolists, and, if gigantic at all, are gigantic competitors. It is to be admitted, of course, that to construct, maintain, and operate a "gigantic” railway, gigantic corporations may not be unnecessary.
Now, railways “ dominate,” says Mr. Hudson, by being these gigantic corporations against which units have no chance. But just as capital is the storage of labor, so a corporation is the aggregate of units, and if units can combine to “ dominate” other and uncombined units, why can not these other units combine to resist the domination ? Mr. Hudson does not recognize such a question, suggests no device by which the unit unassisted by capital can equal in strength the unit when so assisted, nor any reason why the units incorporated for transportation purposes should not compete for the transportation business of the units not incorporated for transportation purposes. This word “competition,” however, is no favorite of Mr. Hudson's. He immensely prefers “ domination”: and properly so, too, since in the employment of the latter word lie not only his premises, but the conclusions at which he assumes to arrive. The railways, concreted,“ dominate” the republic (that is to say, all the United States except the railways), and therefore, since they "dominate” by doing the transportation business of those not in that business, the only safety is to reverse the situation, so that the units not incorporated for transportation purposes should hereafter dominate the units who are so incorporated. In other words : Let our railroads, by all means, be run by men who do not understand railroading, and let those who do understand the running of railroads step down and out at once.
But why should those individually concerned in railway management step down and out? Why, says Mr. Hudson, because several of them have accumulated enormous fortunes; fortunes fabulous, even when compared with all the other private fortunes in