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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Trade Depressions

Trade Depressions.

We have all heard and read a great deal about trade depressions, bank failures, and financial crises, but it does not appear to have occurred to any of the writers or speakers to note the fact that these things did not exist prior to the railway era. They have only existed during the last sixty years as regularly recurring events. During this period seven of these great waves of depression have swept over and devastated the world, and each of these as it came along has been bigger, broader, deeper, and higher than its predecessor, has lasted longer, occurred at a less interval, and has left a greater sea of desolation behind it. What is the cause of this? There must be some great underlying cause, some great evil at the bottom. What is it? What is there in the world of sufficient magnitude to produce such a universal result? My reply is, its railways, and that there is no other institution of sufficient magnitude to so powerfully affect its trade, commerce, and general social conditions. But if this institution, built up by the expenditure of six billions of pounds sterling, is, as I contend it is, administered on utterly wrong principles, we have here a more than sufficient reason for all the troubles that surround us. The more I study this problem the more I am convinced that we shall never restore trade and commerce to a satisfactory condition until we reform our railway administration.