The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 620 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.

An economic organization framed in the national interest would conform to the same principles as a political organization framed in the national interest.  It would stimulate the peculiarly efficient individual by offering him opportunities for work commensurate with his abilities and training.  It would grant him these opportunities under conditions which would tend to bring about their responsible use.  And it would seek to make the results promote the general economic welfare.  The peculiar advantage of the organization of American industry which has gradually been wrought during the past fifty years is precisely the opportunity which it has offered to men of exceptional ability to perform really constructive economic work.  The public interest has nothing to gain from the mutilation or the destruction of these nationalized economic institutions.  It should seek, on the contrary, to preserve them, just in so far as they continue to remain efficient; but it should at the same time seek the better distribution of the fruits of this efficiency.  The great objection to the type of regulation constituted by the New York Public Service Commission Law is that it tends to deprive the peculiarly capable industrial manager of any sufficient opportunity to turn his abilities and experience to good account.  It places him under the tutelage of public officials, responsible to a public opinion which has not yet been sufficiently nationalized in spirit or in purpose, and in case this tutelage fails of its object (as it assuredly will) the responsibility for the failure will be divided.  The corporation manager will blame the commissions for vexatious, blundering, and disheartening interference.  The commissions will blame the corporation manager for lack of cordial cooeperation.  The result will be either the abandonment of the experiment or the substitution of some degree of public ownership.  But in either event the constructive economic work of the past two generations will be in some measure undone; and the American economic advance will be to that extent retarded.  Such obnoxious regulation has been not unjustly compared to the attempt to discipline a somewhat too vivacious bull by the simple process of castration.  For it must be substituted an economic policy which will secure to the nation, and the individual the opportunities and the benefits of the existing organization, while at the same time seeking the diffusion of those benefits over a larger social area.



The only sound point of departure for a national economic policy is, as we have seen, the acceptance by the state of certain of the results of corporate industrial organization.  Such state recognition is equivalent to discrimination in their favor, because it leaves them in possession of those fundamental economic advantages, dependent on terminals, large capital, and natural resources, which place them beyond effective competition; and the state has good reason to suffer this discrimination, because a wise government can always make more social capital out of a cooeperative industrial organization than it can out of an extremely competitive one.

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The Promise of American Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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