Abbildungen der Seite

of the owners, not in the special interests of the directors and managers. It cannot be doubted that our standards of commercial honesty are improving in America. Operations which twentyfive years ago men admired as shrewd they now denounce as dishonest. For operations like those which netted millions of dollars to the operators years ago, men are now serving their time under criminal sentence in the State's prison. This gradual improvement in the standards of honesty has been accompanied with a demand for closer Governmental inspection of the great corporations. The corporation tax law, recently passed by Congress, compels the corporations to file their financial reports at Washington, where they will be subjected to the inspection of the parties interested. We no longer think that men may issue stock to represent their property in any amount and sell it at any price they please. Some States have already enacted laws against stockwatering. Congress has failed to enact the law which was proposed to prevent the stock-watering of corporations engaged in interstate commerce; but we may be pretty sure that a future session will enact it. If I own a horse worth $100, and offer it to my neighbor for $250, there is nothing dishonest in the transaction, if it is not accompanied with false statements,

expressed or implied. But if I divide the horse ownership into twenty-five shares of $10 each, and sell the stock to my church for $250, and the church transforms the shares into $20 each, and raffles the horse at a church fair for $500, somebody is cheated. The defense made on stockwatering is that it anticipates the future value of the property. If it is a colt worth $100 that is thus raffled for at $500, the transaction is still dishonest. The property of a corporation should be estimated at its present real value, not at its imagined future value, and it should be so organized and operated that every workingman can put his savings into its stock with as much safety as he now puts them into a savings bank.

Not only honesty in administration of the corporation, however, is necessary, but also facility for investment in its property. The workingman must have a fair chance to buy the stock in an honestly managed corporation. Corporations are beginning to see that it is for their interest to have the workingmen co-capitalists; they are beginning to open the door to capitalistic participation with them. The most striking illustration of this is furnished by the United States Steel Corporation, nearly half of whose workingmen are shareholders. In the proportion in which workingmen become owners of stock they become

owners of the tools with which their industry is carried on. Just in that proportion the class division into laborers and capitalists begins to disappear.

But the workingman must not only be sure that the corporation is honestly managed, and is therefore a safe investment, and must not only have the opportunity for purchasing stock and so becoming a shareholder, he must have also the means with which to purchase. It is reported by the Comptroller of the Currency that there were in 1909 nearly nine million depositors in the savings banks of the United States who owned therein $3,713,405,709. A considerable proportion of these depositors are wage-earners; they belong to the creditor class; they are capitalists loaning their capital through the savings banks to the managers of great enterprises. When the great enterprises are so honestly managed that stock in the enterprise is as safe as a deposit in the savings bank, many of these savings-bank depositors will become shareholders in the enterprise which, by their work, they are carrying on. When every post-office in the United States becomes a savings bank, and it is as easy for the workingman to deposit his money with his Government for safe-keeping as it is now for him to send a registered letter, we may reasonably

expect that the savings will be greatly increased -an expectation which is abundantly justified by the history of other countries. The anti-saloon wave which is springing up over the country at the present time gives further justification for this faith in the economic future of the common people of America. For this movement is, in part at least, an economic one; a protest against the waste involved in the drink traffic; a protest against a traffic which produces, as has been well said, not public wealth, but public illth.

A right to labor and an opportunity to labor are barren rights without capacity to labor. He who can contribute to the world's wealth only the product of muscular toil contributes very little. For science has learned how to set nature's forces to work, and the muscles of man compete at great disadvantage with the muscles of nature. That is not a healthy individual who labors only with his hands while his brain lies fallow, nor is he healthy who labors only with his brain while his hands are idle. The brain and the muscle were given by the Creator to the same man that he might use them both. To divide society into brain-workers and hand-toilers is to make a social order contrary to nature. This we are beginning to see. Very slowly and afar off we are following Germany, whose recent unexampled indus

trial development is partly due to her recognition of the value of industrial education, which occupies in her system equal place with literary education. When our educational processes, intellectual and moral, equip as thoroughly and as broadly for so-called industrial as for so-called professional pursuits, we shall give to workingmen that equality of capacity which is really essential to equality of opportunity. The progress which we have made and are making in this direction is one of the hopeful signs of the times. In my college days there was not, I believe, an engineering school in the country, and there was practically no laboratory work in the colleges. Now in all our more progressive communities there is the industrial as well as the literary High School. Thus democratic America is, in spite of some opposition and more indifference, gradually abolishing what is called the proletariat, by giving to all men the opportunity and developing in all men the capacity, intellectual and moral, to be sharers in the wealth of the community.

While in the corporations men are learning to coöperate on the basis of mutual trust and confidence in great industrial enterprises, in labor unions men who live chiefly by the industry of their hands are learning how to coöperate on the

« ZurückWeiter »