Readings on the Relation of Government to Property and Industry

By Samuel P. Orth | Go to book overview

I
THE CHANGING CONCEPTIONS OF PROPERTY AND THE FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT

THE CONSTITUTIONAL POSITION OF PROPERTY IN AMERICA

BY ARTHUR TWINING HADLEY, PRESIDENT OF YALE UNIVERSITY

(From the Independent, April 16, 1908)

The basis of the expansion of governmental functions in relation to industry and property is the changing opinion regarding property obligations and vested rights. The statement by President Hadley may well be called the classic pronouncement upon this subject. -- EDITOR'S NOTE.

European observers who study either the specific industrial questions which have come before the American people for their solution, or the general relation between the industrial activity of the Government and that of private individuals, are surprised at a certain weakness of public action in all these matters. Our legislatures are often ready to pass drastic measures of regulation; they are rarely willing to pursue a consistent and carefully developed policy for the attainment of an industrial end. The people often declaim against the extent of the powers of private capital; they are seldom willing to put that capital under the direct management of the government itself. The man who talks loudest of the abuses of private railroad management shrinks from the alternative of putting railroads into the direct control and ownership of the State.

The fact is, that private property in the United States, in spite of all the dangers of unintelligent legislation, is constitutionally in a stronger position, as against the Government and the Government authority, than is the case in any country of Europe. However much public feeling may at times move in the direction of socialistic measures, there is no nation which by its constitution is so far removed from

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