I have never had illusions about the value of my individual contribution! I realized early that what a man or a woman does is built on what those who have gone before have done, that its real value depends on making the matter in hand a little clearer, a little sounder for those who come after. Nobody begins or ends anything. Each person is a link, weak or strong, in an endless chain. One of our gravest mistakes is persuading ourselves that nobody has passed this way before.
When the business man who fights to secure special privileges, to crowd his competitor off the track by other than fair competitive methods, receives the same summary disdainful ostracism by his fellows that the doctor or lawyer who is 'unprofessional,' the athlete who abuses the rules, receives, we shall have gone a long way toward making commerce a fit pursuit for our young men.
Sacredness of human life! The world has never believed it! It has been with life that we settled our quarrels, won wives, gold and land, defended ideas, imposed religions. We have held that a death toll was a necessary part of every human achievement, whether sport, war or industry. A moment's rage over the horror of it, and we have sunk into indifference.
One of the most depressing features of the ethical side of the matter is that instead of such methods arousing contempt they are more or less openly admired. And this is logical. Canonise 'business success,' and men who made a success like that of the Standard Oil Trust become national heroes!
[On dishonest business methods:] ... frequently the defender of the practice falls back on the Christian doctrine of charity, and points out that we are erring mortals and must allow for each other's weaknesses! - an excuse which, if carried to its legitimate conclusion, would leave our business men weeping on one another's shoulders over human frailty, while they picked one another's pockets.
How defeated and restless the child that is not doing something in which it sees a purpose, a meaning! It is by its self-directed activity that the child, as years pass, finds its work, the thing it wants to do and for which it finally is willing to deny itself pleasure, ease, even sleep and comfort.
The surprise of the fight on the long day, of the experiments with the shorter one, has been not only that the business could stand it, but that the business thrived under it as surely as the man did. It is but another of the proofs which are heaping up in American industry to-day that whatever is good for men and women - contributes to their health, happiness, development - is good for business.
I came then to a conviction that has never left me: that there is too much for me to attend to in this mortal life without overspeculation on the immortal, that it is not necessary to my peace of mind or to my effort to be a decent and useful person, to have a definite assurance about the affairs of the next world.
There is no gaming table in the world where loaded dice are tolerated, no athletic field where men must not start fair. Yet Mr. Rockefeller has systematically played with loaded dice, and it is doubtful if there has ever been a time since 1872 when he has run a race with a competitor and started fair.
Perhaps our national ambition to standardize ourselves has behind it the notion that democracy means standardization. But standardization is the surest way to destroy the initiative, to denumb the creative impulse above all else essential to the vitality and growth of democratic ideals.
Very often people who admit the facts, who are willing to see that Mr. Rockefeller has employed force and fraud to secure his ends, justify him by declaring, 'It's business.' That is, 'it's business' has come to be a legitimate excuse for hard dealing, sly tricks, special privileges.
My whole theory for the improvement of society is based on a belief in the discipline and the education of the individual to self-control and right doing, for the sake of right doing. I have never seen fundamental improvements imposed from the top by ordinances and laws.
Now, if the Standard Oil Company were the only concern in the country guilty of the practices which have given it monopolistic power, this story never would have been written. Were it alone in these methods, public scorn would long ago have made short work of the Standard Oil Company. But it is simply the most conspicuous type of what can be done by these practices. The methods it employs with such acumen, persistency, and secrecy are employed by all sorts of business men, from corner grocers up to bankers. If exposed, they are excused on the ground that this... Read more »
Speculation in oil stock companies was another great evil ... From the first, oil men had to contend with wild fluctuations in the price of oil. ... Such fluctuations were the natural element of the speculator, and he came early, buying in quantities and holding in storage tanks for higher prices. If enough oil was held, or if the production fell off, up went the price, only to be knocked down by the throwing of great quantities of stocks on the market.