Story type: Essay
Look at the coal strike, the opinions that it calls forth, and notice how respectability dances and hops from one foot to the other when the RESPECTABLE shoe pinches and the RESPECTABLE toe suffers.
A little while ago the man who spoke against trusts and general monopolies of public necessities was called demagogue, socialist, anarchist, inciter of the masses against the classes, and so on.
But along comes the Beef Trust and begins to punish even the respectable “upper” classes. Double prices for food mean a serious difference even in a very respectable income.
Then you have the respectabilities also suddenly developing signs of demagogism, socialism and anarchy.
They want the tariff taken off of foodstuffs. They want the managers of the Food Trust put in jail.
The Beef Trust teaches the nation one interesting lesson–namely, that by excessive extortion the trusts will lose soon their respectable friends and unite all of the people against them.
The Beef Trust also teaches that the language called socialistic and anarchistic, when confined to working people, becomes profound political economy when uttered by some respectability with a pinched toe. —-
The Coal Trust is a later and even more radical national teacher.
The respectable individual who a short time ago could see no difference between advocating Government ownership of national resources and communism or thievery has seen a wonderful light while gazing on his coal fire at Twelve Dollars a ton.
Judges on the bench, eminently respectable newspapers–by which we mean those newspapers representing the interests of men who think with their pockets–are expressing the most radical out-and-out socialistic ideas.
One of the mildest suggestions made by these respectabilities is that the Government should seize the coal mines and work them for the benefit of the people, setting aside the preposterous claims of the Coal Trust.
Papers like the Springfield Republican, the Philadelphia Ledger and other solemn organs of antiquity are advocating, without knowing it, ideas which mean inevitably universal government ownership of monopolies.
The Coal Trust as a public educator is an undoubted success, more of a success than it would like to be if it could understand the nature of its teachings.
If the Government has a right to seize coal mines and work them for the people, as respectability now declares, why has it not a right to seize railroads, telegraphs and all the other great industries whose value depends entirely upon the national population? —-
Many men in this world hated their teachers while they were being whipped in the old- fashioned way, but look back with gratitude later on to those same teachers and those same whippings.
Our national teachers, the trusts, are severe teachers. Their lessons are hard lessons, and they believe in very unpleasant forms of corporal punishment–inflicting hunger and cold upon their pupils.
This nation in time will look back with gratitude to the lessons and to the whippings of the trusts.
The trusts are teaching us inevitably that competition is antiquated; that organization is the real basis of industry. They are teaching us that it is feasible and necessary for the nation eventually to take possession of and manage its own properties, industrial as well as others.