Major Leonard Darwin, of London, delivered the last of his lectures on "Municipal Ownership" last evening, on the subject of "Municipal Ownership without Direct Employment. Municipal Ownership and Socialistic Ideas."
In treating the subject, Major Darwin said that if an industry tended to become a monopoly, public control was necessary. But this control may be asserted by granting short franchises to companies, to be held as long as the rights of the people are considered. Thus all the risks involved in ownership would be averted.
Several disadvantages occur from widely spread municipal ownership. Withdrawal of private capital would cause a great loss to the citizens. The actual working of governmental monopolies is slow and deadening, as the element of personal gain is entirely absent.
Socialists demand the whole product of labor, and the right to work on wages. It is admitted that the present distribution of wealth is wrong, but municipal control would do nothing to change this evil. Citizens would be forced to invest money drawn from them by taxation in this public venture, without realizing any interest on their investment for several years.
By raising taxes for the investment, rents would rise. The whole burden of the rise in taxes will fall not on the tenants but on the land-owners. This would not in any way alter the above difficulty with distribution.
In considering the second demand of socialists, the right to work on wages, the question whether employment will be more or less regular in widely established municipal industries should be asked. In periods of depression the cost of production will necessarily be increased, and prices will remain high, when they should decrease. Men in private concerns will get less work in periods of depression, and men in public concerns more, making the difference in the distribution of wealth even greater than before.