The trouble is that too many trusts start wrong. A lot of these fellows take a strong, sound business idea—the economy of cost in manufacture and selling—and hitch it to a load of the rottenest business principle in the bunch—the inflation of the value of your plant and stock—, and then wonder why people hold their noses when their outfit drives down Wall Street. Of course, when you stop a little leakage between the staves and dip out the sugar by the bucket from the top, your net gain is going to be a deficit for somebody. So if these fellows try to do business as they should do it, by clean and sound methods and at fair and square prices, they can’t earn money enough to satisfy their stockholders, and they get sore; and if they try to do business in the only way that’s left, by clubbing competition to death, and gouging the public, then the whole country gets sore. It seems to me that a good many of these trusts are at a stage where the old individual character of the businesses from which they came is dead, and a new corporate character hasn’t had time to form and strengthen. Naturally, when a youngster hangs fire over developing a conscience, he’s got to have one licked into him.
Personally, I want to see fewer businesses put into trusts on the canned-soup theory—add hot water and serve—before I go into one; and I want to know that the new concern is going to put a little of itself into every case that leaves the plant, just as I have always put in a little of myself. Of course, I don’t believe that this stage of the trusts can last, because, in the end, a business that is founded on doubtful values and that makes money by doubtful methods will go to smash or be smashed, and the bigger the business the bigger the smash. The real trust-busters are going to be the crooked trusts, but so long as they can keep out of jail they will make it hard for the sound and straight ones to prove their virtue. Yet once the trust idea strikes bed-rock, and a trust is built up of sound properties on a safe valuation; once the most capable man has had time to rise to the head, and a new breed, trained to the new idea, to grow up under him; and once dishonest competition—not hard competition—is made a penitentiary offense, and the road to the penitentiary macadamized so that it won’t be impassable to the fellows who ride in automobiles—then there’ll be no more trust-busting talk, because a trust will be the most efficient, the most economical, and the most profitable way of doing business; and there’s no use bucking that idea or no sense in being so foolish as to want to. It would be like grabbing a comet by the tail and trying to put a twist in it. And there’s nothing about it for a young fellow to be afraid of, because a good man isn’t lost in a big business—he simply has bigger opportunities and more of them. The larger the interests at stake, the less people are inclined to jeopardize them by putting them in the hands of any one but the best man in sight.