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Dyers in England, the workingmen and employers have a joint bureau for the settlement of disputes which may arise, with a fund on both sides to pay damages in case of dispute, and the two classes seem to be working together with mutual respect, and, on the whole, in harmony.
It has already been noted that the E. J. Smith combinations were founded upon an alliance between the workingmen and the employers which seems to have failed because they tried on the whole to exploit the consumer too far. Generally speaking, throughout Europe, so far as one can gather, there seems to be little hostility on the part of the laborers toward the combinations, and so far, indeed, as one can see, there is not in Europe the same degree of hostility on the part of the public toward the concentration of capital that exists in the United States.
It is true that the people in England complain at times of the number of members of Parliament who hold directorships in corporations, but they evidently consider this rather a hint toward political corruption than an attack upon combinations as such; and they do not have any especial fear of the power of monopoly.
In France some of the leaders of the Radicals earlier seemed to believe that the Governmentought to take certain active measures toward investigating the question of combination with the possible thought of protecting the people; but here again those of socialistic tendencies are rather inclined to welcome the drift toward combination as a first step toward State socialism, and do not apparently have any fear of losing personal liberty through such influence. The strength of the Socialistic party, at times even dominant, does not alter this general conclusion.
Similar are the conditions in Austria and Germany. In Austria there has apparently been a somewhat greater feeling of dread and of hostility toward the combinations than in any other European country. It is possible that here the movement may have been almost as active at times as in the United States. The opponents, however, have found it much more difficult to bring about legislation than in the United States, so that comparatively little has been done, and whatever agitation there may have been has been limited largely to editorials and speeches without any very effective results, except somewhat more rigid court decisions and the refusal to favor the combinations as in Germany.
In Germany the high price of coal at times during the last few years has, by many, been ascribed to the coal syndicate, and there has been much bitter complaint. On the other hand, however, those who have looked most closely into the matter-chambers of commerce, members of the government, and others—seem to have reached the conclusion that the increased price of coal at such times has been due rather to the extraordinary demand. Moreover, they note that the syndicate has at times opened new mines, and has increased its output to a greater extent than have the independent coal producers. On the whole, they are rather inclined to give the syndicate the credit of checking an abnormal tendency toward overproduction and speculation, with the danger of a consequent crisis, than to blame it for the course that it has followed.
Questions in the House of Representatives of Prussia and in the Imperial Reichstag have called from the Minister of Commerce words of defence and even of commendation for the syndicate.
With the exception of the coal syndicate, there seems to have been relatively little complaint made in Germany against the combinations.
This, of course, does not overlook the political influence of the labor organizations or the intent of the Socialist parties to assume control of capital through the State of that can be brought about. We must not forget, however, that in Germany, especially, the Socialist movement is not only economic but also largely political and that it is in many places merely a democratic movement, not all the leaders of which believe in the economic doctrines of Marx or the other Socialistic writers.
So far as actual or contemplated legislation is concerned, a little more may perhaps be said. In England, the amendments of the year 1900 to the stock corporation law have been in the direction of enforced publicity to a much greater degree. The earnings of promoters must be laid bare; and the regular profits or losses of the business, if the law is enforced with a reasonable degree of care, may certainly be known to the stockholders and to the general public. Legislation against combinations as such has not been made, but under the old common law monopolies and contracts in restraint of trade are, of course, forbidden or declared invalid. Nevertheless, the English courts have taken a position somewhat different from that followed by the courts of the United States. They seem rather to be of the
opinion that an agreement for the protection of one's own business, even though it may seriously injure competitors, is not to be looked upon as a combination in unreasonable restraint of trade, but rather as a justifiable measure of protection and one that should be considered valid. Unfair methods of competition, especially if they involve deception or fraud, are invalid under the Common Law.
In France, the provision of the French Penal Code, which forbids coalitions to raise prices, especially if fraudulent representations are used, has, beyond doubt, had a very deterrent effect toward open agreements on prices. Combinations have either taken the form of single corporations, or, like the Comptoir Métallurgique de Longwy, have organized a selling bureau as an independent establishment which buys and sells the products of the different members, or else, like the sugar combination, they take the form of an agreement regarding output and allow the prices to be regulated thereby without any formal contract on that subject being made. The drift toward combination in France is unmistakable, but it is very evident that this law has checked the open movement, and has also affected to a considerable degree the form which combinations as
In Germany, the courts have upheld, in one or two very striking decisions, the principle that agreements to prevent ruinous competition, and to maintain prices so that there shall be a reasonable return upon capital, are to be considered valid, and that penalties in such agreements in the nature of fines upon those who violate them may be enforced by law. The court in one de
“When in a branch of industry the prices of the product fall too low, and the successful conduct of the industry is endangered or made impossible, the crisis setting in as the result of such a state of affairs is detrimental not only to individuals, but also to society as a whole, and it is therefore in the interests of the community that improperly low prices should not exist in a certain branch of industry for a long time. Therefore, it cannot be simply and generally considered as contrary to the interests of the community when entrepreneurs interested in a certain branch of industry unite with the object of preventing or moderating the mutual underselling, and as a result of the latter, the fall of the prices of their products. On the contrary, when prices are for a long time actually so low that financial ruin threatens the entrepreneurs, their combination appears to be not merely a legitimate means of self-preservation, but also a measure serving the interests of the community.
As has been said before, the German Government has openly defended the Coal Syndicate. Laws have been passed favoring the. Potash Syndicate. So long as the public interest is not harmed by unfair practices or fraud, combination is not forbidden but is rather encouraged in many fields. A matter of special interest is the government bill introduced shortly before the outbreak of the war providing for a company of which the Government should have the controlling share, to control the wholesale trade in petroleum. This was clearly intended as an attack upon the Standard Oil Co., which, through its German subsidiaries, had secured largely the control of the German market. It was