The Future Of Trusts -- By: Z. Swift Holbrook

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 056:222 (Apr 1899)
Article: The Future Of Trusts
Author: Z. Swift Holbrook


The Future Of Trusts1

Z. Swift Holbrook

August Comte affirmed that a perfect science can predict. The deeply philosophical mind of De Tocqueville clearly foresaw the abolition of slavery in America, and, so far back as in 1833, predicted an event that found its fulfilment thirty years later. When a science is yet in its swaddling-clothes, like sociology, it cannot affirm,—

“‘Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
And coming events cast their shadows before.”

Adam Smith first published his “Wealth of Nations” in 1776, and some of the ablest minds of this closing century have traversed the field of political economy with accuracy and acumen; but most economists are content with the historical method, while too many are satisfied to be juggling with statistics, and the world of reality moves away from them at so rapid a pace that many text-books on economics find the upper shelf before they reach a second edition. Those who make history ever move faster than those who write about it. The man of affairs is in the vanguard, and the student, like the statistician, brings up the rear. It is not a simple task to assume the role of the prophet, and successfully meet the expectations that are awakened, and this article makes no pretensions to such a task. The first steamship that crossed the ocean brought an elaborate essay proving clearly that no steamship could carry suffi-

cient coal to accomplish such a trip. The essay was quickly turned into a humorous document; for a fact makes light of fancy, and reality quickly turns the serious into satire. Theory is ever a vanishing cloud in the presence of practice. Bryce, in his “American Commonwealth,” has a chapter on the Social and Economic Future that already needs revising, and even Professor Hadley in his Economics2 makes a statement about the inability of a combination of competitors to remove restriction upon charges that would cause merriment among the directors in many of the large and successful trusts of to-day.

When compared with the practical merchant, the economist says, in the words of Burns: —

“Still thou art blest, compared wi ‘me!
The present only toucheth thee;
But, och! I backward cast my e’e
On prospects drear;
An’ forward, though I canna see,
I guess an’ fear.”

If political economy be more than pure empiricism, or if it would relieve itself of the charge of being the dismal science, it should now rise up early and sit up late in a heroic effort to forecast the future of monopolies...

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