The dangers are that the power conferred by combination may be abused, that combinations may be formed for speculation in stocks rather than for conducting business, and that for this purpose prices may be temporarily raised instead of being lowered. These abuses are possible to a greater or less extent in all combinations, large or small, but this fact is no more of an argument against combinations than the fact that steam may explode is an argument against steam. Steam is necessary and can be made comparatively safe. Combination is necessary and its abuses can be minimized; otherwise our legislators must acknowledge their incapacity to deal with the most important instrument of industry.
In the hearing of the Industrial Commission in 1899, I then said that if I were to suggest any legislation regarding industrial combinations it would be: First, Federal legislation under which corporations may be created and regulated, if that be possible. Second, in lieu thereof, state legislation as nearly uniform as possible, encouraging combinations of persons and capital for the purpose of carrying on industries, but permitting state supervision, not of a character to hamper industries, but sufficient to prevent frauds upon the public. I still feel as I did in 1899.
I am far from believing that this will adversely affect the individual. The great economic era we are entering will give splendid opportunity to the young man of the future. One often hears the men of this new generation say that they do not have the chances that their fathers and grandfathers had. How little they know of the disadvantages from which we suffered! In my young manhood we had everything to do and nothing to do it with; we had to hew our own paths along new lines; we had little experience to go on. Capital was most difficult to get, credits were mysterious things. Whereas now we have a system of commercial ratings, everything was then haphazard and we suffered from a stupendous war and all the disasters which followed.
Compare this day with that. Our comforts and opportunities are multiplied a thousand fold. The resources of our great land are now actually opening up and are scarcely touched; our home markets are vast, and we have just begun to think of the foreign peoples we can serve—the people who are years behind us in civilization. In the East a quarter of the human race is just awakening. The men of this generation are entering into a heritage which makes their fathers’ lives look poverty-stricken by comparison. I am naturally an optimist, and when it comes to a statement of what our people will accomplish in the future, I am unable to express myself with sufficient enthusiasm.
There are many things we must do to attain the highest benefit from all these great blessings; and not the least of these is to build up our reputation throughout the whole world.