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Economic Aspects of Railway Receiverships. By HENRY H.
SWAIN, Ph.D. (American Economic Association (vol. iii.
RAILROAD receiverships in the United States have so often had for English investors unpleasant economic aspects that one reads not without surprise Dr. Swain's statement, based on careful and detailed investigation, that probably not more than one-third of the total railway mileage of the States has ever been in the hands of a receiver. For all that, railway receiverships, a subject regulated in the main by judgemade developments of a law originally intended to apply to the custody of simple forms of property, play an important part in the economic history of the United States. And not in their economical history only, for Dr. Swain's monograph throws interesting side lights on the social and political situation in the less settled States. Not so long ago "friendly” receiverships, appointments, that is, of receivers to protect a railway property from its creditors in the interest of the persons who were in control of the management, seem to have been far from uncommon. Or again, the refusal of a receiver in South Carolina appointed by a Federal court to pay State taxes, the distraint on the railway property by the State officials, and the prompt arrest of these latter for contempt of court by the United States marshal, form an excellent object lesson to illustrate Mr. Bryce's chapters on the relation between State and National Authorities. It should be added that the State has since attempted to redress the balance by enacting a law—which no doubt will be declared unconstitutional when opportunity arises-under which a railway receiver is made personally liable for State taxes. Of that very remarkable attempt at the introduction of judicial despotism, which, after becoming famous under the name of “ Government by Injunction," has already been crushed by the good sense of the American people, Dr. Swain also gives some striking examples. On page 88 he compares, not quite accurately however, English railway debentures with American mortgage bonds. Granting that American bonds are secured on the corpus of the property, while English debentures have only a mortgage on the undertaking as a going concern, English debentures are yet far from being comparable to mere income bonds. For debentures are a permanent and cumulative charge, income bonds are only a charge on such income, if any, as may happen to be available in each particular year. It would have been of value for English readers if Dr. Swain had compared English and American railway receiverships from another point of view. A very competent critic has declared that American receiverships reduce to manageable limits, while English reorganisations increase still further, the previously excessive capitalization of a bankrupt railroad. Those who know how great railway systems like the Atchison, or the Denver and Rio Grande, or the Northern Pacific, have developed their capacity for public service since they got rid of their receivers and started afresh with liabilities which their income enables them to face with confidence, and can compare this state of things with that prevailing on numbers of small English railways, which are piling up year after year a load of debt which they can never hope to shake off, will be able to judge whether in this matter the experience of America would not be of value for our guidance in England.
W. M. ACWORTH
State Purchase of Railways in Switzerland. By M. HORACE
MICHELI (Swiss Correspondent of the Paris Musée Social).
This monograph may be commended to the notice of those who desire to supplement the information on this subject given in recent numbers of the Economic JOURNAL and by the original authorities there cited. Two points brought out by M. Micheli seem to be of interest, and are, as far as I know, new. In June, 1895, the Swiss Federal Assembly passed a law providing that no shareholder should be entitled to vote at the annual meetings of the Swiss Railway companies unless he had been on the register as a shareholder for at least six months. " The avowed object of this law was to diminish the influence of foreign shareholders. .. This the law failed to accomplish ; that influence, on the contrary, only increased. A great number of small shareholders, the majority of them Swiss, did not wish to have their shares registered, and were thus deprived of their right to vote. The foreign shareholders, on the other hand, holding large blocks of stock, fulfilled this requirement, and so acquired an influence which they had not previously possessed in several Swiss companies.”
In the Gothard company, for example, out of 100,000 shares, only 27,000-less than one thirdwere registered, and nineteen-twentieths of this third were registered by domiciled foreigners. The second point is that according to M. Micheli, one main cause of the success of the purchase policy was the fact that “the railway officials voted in great majority for purchase, and under the leadership of M. Sourbeck conducted an active propaganda in its favour, persuaded that their condition would be ameliorated if they passed from the service of private companies into that of the Federal Government." The table on page 417, giving the voting on the referendum by cantons is also distinctly interesting. It shows that, while Zurich, St. Gall, and Appenzell by a majority of five to one, and Berne by a majority of three to one voted “aye,” Geneva and Neuchatel were practically neutral, the Forest Cantons voted two to one, and Freiburg and Valais three to one, against the nationalisation. With such irreconcilable divergencies of mental attitude in different parts of the country; with an estimate of the cost of purchase likely to prove, according to the highest authorities, entirely inadequate; with the general public fully persuaded that they are forthwith to receive “ reduction of rates, improvement of service, and all sorts of transportation facilities;” with the railway staff firmly determined to ameliorate their conditions of service by the use of their votes, it must be confessed that the Federal Council, at least during the earlier years of the new régime, will have no enviable task before them.
W. M. ACWORTH
Open Mints and Free Banking. By WILLIAM BROUGH. (The
Knickerbocker Press. New York.)
In this book an attempt is made to outline a plan of monetary reform for the United States. On the second page the curious assumption is made that the “principles of the advocates of the gold standard" and those" of the advocates of free-silver coinage" must both be adhered to; and the author naturally meets the fate of those who try to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. His proposal is that there should be both a gold and a silver currency, with open mints for both metals, but with no fixed ratio between them. It is proposed that the existing national debts should be paid in gold, though the fate of other creditors is left in the dark; a startling omission, considering that “ in all of the Southern States silver would certainly be adopted as the monetary standard." We may, perhaps, sympathise to a certain extent with the author's desire for banking reform, though the arguments he uses are somewhat strange. We entirely fail to follow him when he asserts that the Canadian issues of paper money are "all floating capital abstracted from the industries of the country, and dissipated” (p. 49); or when he tells us that to make silver unlimited legal tender in a gold-using country“ reduces the productive power of silver as capital to the level of the baser metals ” (p. 126). However, our failure to grasp his meaning is probably of no consequence.
Travail de Nuit des Ouvrières de l'Industrie dans les Pays
Étrangers. By MAURICE ANSIAUX. (Bruxelles : Office de
This report upon the legal restrictions imposed upon the industrial employment of women by night in France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Austria, and Germany has been drawn up by Doctor M. Ansiaux at the request of the Belgian Minister of Trade and Labour. In prosecuting his inquiries into the subject, the author has not only studied the labour legislation of each country and the governmental reports of factory inspectors and other officials; he has also personally visited all the districts about which he writes, and taken first hand evidence from representatives of both employers and workpeople as to the manner in which the law is enforced and its effect. In this way he has been able to gauge more or less accurately in each country the feeling of those who are most directly affected by the laws in question; and not the least interesting part of his book is the comparison we are thus able to make between the different countries as regards the attitude of th public towards them, and the part played by private effort in enforcing them. The legal restrictions are most stringent in Great Britain and Switzerland, and in these countries they are also the most vigorously enforced by the inspectors and courts of law; but it is also in these countries that public opinion, even amongst employers of labour, is most strongly in favour of the law and that there is least fear of its economic effects. In Great Britain and Switzerland, moreover, and especially in the former, the work of the inspectorate is supplemented by that of private individuals or associations, who make it their duty to look out for and report any infringements of the law; and it is curious to notice the prominence given to the views of unofficial persons, and especially of well-known women, in Doctor Ansiaux's report on Great Britain as compared with his reports of any other country. In the case of every country which he has considered, however, the author has convinced himself that the effect of the prohibition or restriction of women's work at night, has had the most beneficial moral and physical effects upon the workers, and that the economic inquiries which have been said to ensue, especially in France where such legislation is youngest, are either purely imaginary, or of a very transient nature.
A, H. BLOMEFIELD
To-morrow : A Peaceful Path to Real Reform. By E. HOWARD.
(London : Sonnenschein. 8vo, pp. 176.)
The path to peaceful reform is, in this instance, a Garden City which combines all the advantages of the town and the country and something more, for there is to be a Crystal Palace which is to serve both as a bazaar and a Winter Garden. Some very attractive coloured diagrams show the plan of the proposed city. In the centre is a garden ; round it are grouped the public buildings ; beyond these lies the Central Park; then comes the Crystal Palace, and after that houses and avenues alternate until the circle of factories is reached—the jam, boot, cycle factories, &c., all have their places assigned to them; and finally, a railway encircles the town. The site, including the pastures, forests, &c., covers 6,000 acres at £40 an acre. The purchase money is to be raised on mortgage debentures and the estate is to be legally vested in the names of four gentlemen of responsible position. The entire revenue of the Garden City is to be derived from rents. Out of these rents the interest on the purchase money is to be paid ; a sinking fund for paying off the principal is to be provided, all municipal buildings are to be constructed and maintained, and a surplus is to be left over for "other purposes, such as old age pensions or insurance against accidents or sickness." The success of the first Garden City is to lead to the erection of many others, so that large towns, including London, will no longer be over-crowded and rents will fall. In this way vested interests will be peacefully evaded.
If capitalists could be found to advance the money and trustees to acce the responsibility; also if 80,000 inhabitants could be found, capable of carrying out the plan of the city and its administration, the experiment might be successful. In that case if Garden Cities became the fashion the author's hopes might be realised, and high rents and slums quietly disappear.
F. M. BUTLIN
Value, Price, and Profit. By KARL MARX. Addressed to Working
Men. Edited by his Daughter ELEANOR MARX AVELING (vi., 94 Pp. 8vo. Sonnenschein. London, 1898).
This paper, which is now published for the first time, was read by Marx to the General Council of the International Association in 1865. The subject of the paper is wages. The title is therefore rather misleading, for value, price and profit are only considered in their relation to wages.
In 1865 there was an epidemic of strikes on the Continent. One of the delegates at the General International Congress, by name Citizen Weston, had maintained that “the amount of real wages, that is to say, of wages as measured by the quantity of commodities they can buy," is a fixed amount, that “if the working class forces the capitalist class to pay five shillings instead of four shillings in the shape of money wages, the capitalist will return in the shape of commodities four shillings worth instead of five shillings worth.” Marx opposes this theory. He argues that “a general rise in the rate of wages would result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but, broadly speaking, not affect the prices of commodities.” In support of this view he brings forward his theory of value of which it is the logical outcome. In developing this theory Marx explained to his audience that in an address he could only touch upon the main points, yet, one cannot but think, that unless those working men were prepared to take everything on faith they must have been somewhat dazed. Here are a few examples of the way in which Marx hurries over the weak parts of his argument :
“ Taking one single commodity, wheat, for instance, we shall find that a quarter of wheat exchanges in almost countless variations of proportion with different commodities. Yet, its ralue remaining always