Mr Bryan and the Trusts

When, at. the end of August, Mr. Bryan, the Democratic candidate for the Presidency of the United States, returned from his tour of the world, he made a remarkable speech that should have been commented on in these columns before. He stated that “Landlordism was the curse of Europe, but it was an innocent institution compared with the trust system carried to its logical conclusion. . . . He hoped the trusts would be exterminated root and branch. . . He declared that the time was ripe for the overthrow of plutocracy, which, he asserted, was already sapping the strength of the nation, vulgarising social life, and making a mockery of morals.” But the most remarkable aspect of the matter is what is described by the Tribune as a “remarkably effective method of dealing with the monopolist trust.” The method as explained in the same organ is “that where a trust has achieved an internal monopoly in production the tariff wall should be broken down so as to admit of foreign competition. Free trade in trust articles is an adroit, a politic, and a just proposal. A capitalistic society is tolerable only when free competition protects the public interests. . . . When once the trust system has been formed, State ownership is indeed the only tolerable alternative to competition. Mr. Bryan’s scheme is ingenious and economically sound. Its failure would mean, we imagine, the growth of some third party, with a definitely socialistic aim.”

The third party has already grown in anticipation of the failure of any scheme of the nature of Mr. Bryan’s. I wonder if the writer of the above quoted article has forgotten the Tobacco War, or whether he learned the lesson that had to teach ? The entry into British markets of the products of the American Tobacco Trust had its first effect in bringing British tobacco manufacturers together into the Imperial Tobacco Company. The two trusts did not compete long—they combined; and today the Imperial Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Trust are a united body. May we nol expect the same thing to happen in America. The only foreign competition the trust cool feel would be that of an organisation sufficiently strong to bear the disadvantages of the extra cost of transit involved. It would have to be a case of the American trust v. a Foreign trust. Such a battle of the giants would not last long and would most certainly result in the achievement of the next step in economic progress after the National trust, viz. the International trust. The “only tolerable alternative” to which will be State ownershi —when the State has been democratised. We seem indeed to be approaching the beginning of the end.


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