Story type: Essay
THE MAMMOTH MADE OUR FIRST PATHS THROUGH THE FOREST
Every big movement in this world in some way or other does solid good in the long run, however irritating it may be before it is understood.
The saddest period in a child’s life is undoubtedly the period of teething. If you saw a baby for the first time and didn’t understand that period, you would denounce the cruelty which inflamed its gums, upset its digestion, kept it awake, condemned it to incessant torture. But we all know that a full set of teeth under the control of the child is to reward the suffering of teething, and this reconciles us to the teething age.
We tell you–and we don’t want you to forget this–that all the trust impositions and suffering and thievery now agitating us constitute a teething process through which we must pass. The result will be a full set of industrial teeth owned and controlled by the nation, which now suffers the torments of the teething baby. —-
You will realize that individuals must at first do that which nations do later.
The despotic, irresponsible rule of the savage chief, of the able individual fighter, was a forerunner of the present system of government.
We have now taken the governing power from the individual, bestowing it on the whole people, but at first we had to have our Attilas, our Napoleons and Alexanders. —-
As individual control of the government has been superseded by collective control, so individual control of industries will be followed by collective control. That is the natural order.
Why does not the government take full charge at once?
Why does not the hen lay a hen all covered with feathers, instead of laying an egg? Everything must have its crude beginning and its perfect ending, for on this basis we are organized.
The French government to-day makes millions from the national control of the match industry. But a solitary individual working in Batavia, New York State, had to create the match and make his little money out of it before the French government could take it and make its millions.
That same French government derives millions from its tobacco business, incidentally giving the people good tobacco cheap instead of poisonous tobacco dear. The red Indian dodging bears and using his squaws as slaves had to start that great tobacco industry before the French government could get it.
Don’t waste your time and energy joining the thoughtless crowd that howls against trusts. Use your vote and your voice to put those trusts under government control as soon as may be. Be glad that an old Vanderbilt had brains enough to build great railroad systems. Don’t denounce him or begrudge him the fortune he made.
His work was worth the money.
Let us say to his little descendants the pee wee Vanderbilts of to-day:
“You have had enough now. Although you have done nothing, we shall pay you generously for what your great-grandfather did, and with your kind permission, or without it, we shall transfer these roads to the people whose patronage gives them value.” —-
In due time this pleasant message of just appropriation will be delivered to all the various trust owners. They will all be well paid for their work. They deserve to be, for they have done as individuals the work which the collective commonwealth could not do.
But they will be made to see that they cannot forever keep what they have created. If a man invents a steam engine worth to the world at large ten thousand billions, he is allowed to keep his property only seventeen years, under our patent laws. Shall we allow a clever highway robber of a commercial organizer to keep the proceeds of his energy for himself and his descendants forever? —-
We had almost forgotten the mammoth mentioned at the top of this article. That mammoth, dead and forgotten, is the forerunner of to-day’s trust. The mammoth was hated by all created things around him. An accidental blow from his left hind foot would break up any family in existence.
But his vast weight and power ploughed the first paths through the swamps and forests. The paths made by the mammoth through unexplored tracts were a great boon to half-savage man. In fact, man followed along those paths after awhile and learned how to kill the mammoth very neatly.
The trusts are marking out organized paths through the hitherto chaotic, disorganized systems of industry. Those paths will be useful to all men through all time. The trust will be killed when his day comes, as the mammoth has been killed.
Let us be patient meanwhile, and not forget that, though a monster, he was a monster absolutely necessary and very useful.