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The United States Steel Corporation, for example, with more than 85,000 shareholders and a quarter of a million employees, has good reason to step lightly when others are excited. The "trust" came out of our last panic in better shape than when it went in. Between 1915 and 1922 it experienced, as did other businesses, boom prices and then a bust period. The prices of steel and pigiron were multiplied, roughly, by four, and then dropped off with disconcerting suddenness. But instead of flinging money around during the high times, the Steel Corporation soberly paid off its debts and increased its surplus. When the crash came it was clear-headed and well heeled; and even the losses of the depression did not pull it back to where it had been when the boom began.
It would seem that every business man should be crafty enough to accomplish this sort of thing, but the fact is that not even the majority of them do. Speculators were probably even less cautious, and investors not so timorous as the speculators. (For there are bears as well as bulls among speculators.) The tendency is to buy on a rising market, and to keep buying, regardless of the fact that a falling market may be just around the corner. It is possible that level-headedness in such crises is one of the advantages of transfer from one-man domination to banking-group control. Bankers are notoriously cagy.
A single dominant personality at the top is no longer a sine qua non of successful industrial enterprise. The Woolworth stores, representing partial group management, and General Motors, representing complete Wall
Street conception and control, show that the function of the owner is less important than economists have been disposed to fancy. Our heroics about our captains of industry appear to have been premature. It is not essential that every concern have its Pooh-bah. The technique of management and control can be applied, it is now clear, either under the Pooh-bah or under a group of financiers, banking houses, and absentee stockholders. This seems to me one of the most interesting developments that has come out of the drift of industry from one-man or one-family control into the hands of syndicates and groups. It makes evident that a going enterprise can keep going without a Master Mind.
Among the stockholders are employees. In twenty-two large concerns there are now more than 300,000 employees listed as partners, and they own nearly half a billion dollars' worth of stock. It has been estimated that employees the country over own perhaps $700,000,000 worth of stock. That is but a drop in the bucket, to be sure; for we roll up higher and higher the totals we put into stocks and bonds. The new securities offered in the first half of 1926 aggregated more than four billions, at a time when Great Britain was issuing less than two thirds of a billion. In this country the figure was the highest for any year, and seven tenths of the new issues of stocks, debentures, and bonds were for corporate financing. Of the instances which I have cited, only two were included in this period, and those not the largest. I have not sought to catalogue recent flotations, but to pick up instances here and
there which would illustrate a principle of modern finance and reveal certain trends.
One of those trends is the spread of employee-partnership, and another is the general spread of shares into millions of hands. The Pennsylvania Railroad alone has 140,000 stockholders. Now, if it does not make so much difference, so far as earnings are concerned, how industry is owned, if it is possible to get along without the kind of owner
who seeks only to reap a present profit, there seems a better prospect that production may be made to keep step with the general good. Now that we have found how workable is a diffusion of partnership and a distribution of prosperity, industry can be brought into closer relation to large public benefits. Those who seek to avail themselves of its benefits through the stock markets must accept the risks which all business enterprises undergo.
THEY CAN STILL SING
RUTH M. GORDON
They who feel ecstasy in early May
I have long wondered why some one doesn't write a grammar from the point of view of the human race. The books we study must have been composed by men who never talked. They dissect language after it has been used, and upon the fragments they meditate in logical evolutions, but they neglect the vital thing, the behavior of words in flight from my mind to yours. Grammar as a subject of study is a structure imposed upon speech by pedants more interested in the structure than in the speech. The genuine grammar, the natural and inevitable relations between words when the words are intelligible, is, like some other profound things in nature, simple.
Many a bright pupil has asked how the grammar now taught could help him to read or write. Many a writer, whose formal training in grammar was defective, has written well. If like Shakspere he reaches unassailable fame, the grammarians exercise much dialectic to prove he was following their rules after all. We suspect he was following rather the genuine laws of speech, which we wish we knew. If we are told his genius rose superior to the rules of grammar, we are skeptical; we suspect the rules were either useless or wrong.
We make our criticism, that is,
from the point of view of the people who are using the language, the speaker and the hearer. The only important grammar is that which brings them together. Even if the formal grammar were correct, Shakspere and his audience would need only a few pages of it, and we need no more. But the children still learn, or try to, that nouns are abstract or collective, common or proper; that "certain proper nouns become common nouns when used in a special sense"; that nouns have gender-or if in spite of grammars they obviously haven't, then they have common gender. But did any human being ever find use for these definitions as he spoke or wrote? Would the knowledge of them solve a single difficulty of expression? Hundreds of thousands of children are at this moment learning that sentences ask questions, or make statements, or express commands. Well, what of it? If the children didn't notice this of themselves, what would they miss? would they miss? Now they have the information, what are they to do with it?
These are some of the useless pages. But much of the formal grammar is from the writer's or speaker's point of view highly questionable or obviously incorrect. Most of the text
books begin with the definition of the sentence, either because the grammarian thinks the sentence is the simplest unit of discourse, or because he wants the students as soon as possible to write the kind of sentence which is easiest for themereaders to correct; he wants every sentence to have a subject and a predicate. All might yet be well, if the human mind were not full of other kinds of sentence. As it is, the student usually meets at the beginning of the book two definitions which contradict each other. The first tells him that a sentence is a group of words expressing a complete thought. The second tells him that a sentence must have a subject and a predicate. Yet the student knows, from the conversation of the teacher or of any one else, that complete thoughts are often, perhaps usually, expressed without subject or predicate. "How much?" we ask the shopkeeper. "Twenty-five cents." Nothing could be more explicit than this question and its answer; each is a complete sentence.
The grammarian has an argument against me, however. He says that the examples just cited are really abbreviations. "How much?" is is colloquial brevity for "How much is this?" and "Twenty-five cents" is a loose way of saying "This is twentyfive cents." If you ask me, "Is it raining?" and I say, "No," what I am trying to say, according to the grammarian, is, "No, it is not raining." Elaborate speakers, trained in this school of complete grammatical construction, feel uneasy with such a sentence as "I can run faster than you"; they carry the pattern out to "than you can." A real pre
cisian ought to say "than you can run." To such a mind an unfinished comparative is distressing; "Tom is the taller" becomes for them "the taller of the two."
To think of sentences in this way is to assume that human speech as we normally hear it is shrunk from some elaborate and complete form it wore in an ideal age, when man parsed as he talked. But primitive man, so far as we know, did not begin with subtleties and afterward simplify his utterance. Like us, he defined the completeness of his sentences in terms of intelligibility, not of subject and predicate. We, like him, are sometimes eloquent in a single grunt. You say, "Smith is a fine fellow, isn't he!" and I, not liking Smith, say "Umph!"
The old grammar misleads me badly, I think, when it defines the passive voice. The formula is that in the passive voice the subject is not active but is acted upon-"He was lifted from the car." This ingenious definition ignores the reason why we use passives, and it implies what is not true, that the hearer thinks of the pronoun in the above sentence as the subject. To the hearer the relation of subject, object, and indirect object remains the same, whether you say "He told me the truth" or "I was told the truth," "The explosion lifted him from the car" or "He was lifted from the car." The difference is that in the passive voice the real subject or active agent is not mentioned, either because the speaker doesn't know, or, more often, because he doesn't wish to tell. The passive voice occurs usually in such statements as "I was told that you said so-and-so about me!"
Similarly the old grammar teaches that pronouns stand for certain nouns, which are their antecedents. From that doctrine I get the impression that pronouns are substituted for something we already have in mind. Experience leads me to believe, however, that we have pronouns in mind before we are aware of the nouns, and nouns are at last substituted for pronouns. "I, Hamlet the Dane," and "This my son" follow the order of nature for pronouns and nouns. Children think of the broad, general name first, and say he, she, it, until we force precision on them by asking who is he, she, or it. If, as some of us believe, the ultimate success of expression is in finding the perfect name, the noun which can stand alone, independent of grammar, then it is not surprising that the beginning of talk should have the sort of looseness which pronouns facilitate. I know the books tell us to substitute the pronoun in order to avoid repetition of the name, and certainly awkward repetitions should be avoided, but it is just as awkward to repeat he or she as to repeat Tom or Mary. For the speaker or writer, the use of a pronoun is to be vague and general, and sometimes that is what we wish to be.
One last illustration. The grammar tries to make me believe there is an essential difference between a noun and a verb. The noun gives the name of a thing, "water," and the verb makes a statement about it, "Water flows." But when you have made a statement about a thing, you have named it; "water" connotes the flowing and the freezing and the everything else that water
does. And if you really name a thing, you have made a statement about it. When I propounded wisdom to my small neighbor, he said, "Apple-sauce!" A complete statement-but is "apple-sauce" a
Our one purpose in speech is not to illustrate grammar but to make ourselves understood. selves understood. If our thoughts are crude, then a crude expression satisfies us; if our ideas are subtle, then we must convey the subtlety to the audience; but in either case we follow a simple process. We produce sounds which we hope will call up our meaning, and if we suspect the meaning has not been called up, we add other sounds. I say that a garage is a building in which automobiles are kept, and a church is a building in which religious services are held, and a hotel is a building in which travelers find shelter. In all three cases I have called the thing a building, but to make myself clearer I have added something. This process, the most elementary kind of definition, contains all that is vital in grammar, from the speaker's or the writer's point of viewall that is important in word relations, sentence structure, paragraph structure, or total form. Of course if I could find a sound which would define the garage or the church or the hotel without aid from additional sounds, I'd use that fine word, and so escape the necessity of grammar altogether, as the child did when he said "apple-sauce." But in most cases, when I have called a thing by one name, I add another to be specific. It is as though I sharpened the pencil, not by cutting away, but