The Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule was described as a measure of “voluntary self regulation” intended “the better to enforce” the laws long since passed by the country’s Legislature. The Rule provided that the members of the National Alliance of Railroads were forbidden to engage in practices defined as “destructive competition”; that in regions declared to be restricted, no more than one railroad would be permitted to operate; that in such regions, seniority belonged to the oldest railroad now operating there, and that the newcomers, who had encroached unfairly upon its territory, would suspend operations within nine months after being so ordered; that the Executive Board of the National Alliance of Railroads was empowered to decide, at its sole discretion, which regions were to be restricted.
When the meeting adjourned, the men hastened to leave. There were no private discussions, no friendly loitering. The great hall became deserted in an unusually short time. Nobody spoke to or looked at Dan Conway.
That sets the scene for this exchange with Dagny Taggart:
“Why don’t you want to fight?”
“Because they had the right to do it.”
“Dan,” she asked, “have you lost your mind?”
“I’ve never gone back on my word in my life,” he said tonelessly. “I don’t care what the courts decide. I promised to obey the majority. I have to obey.”
“Did you expect the majority to do this to you?”
“No.” There was a kind of faint convulsion in the stolid face. He spoke softly, not looking at her, the helpless astonishment still raw within him.
“No, I didn’t expect it. I heard them talking about it for over a year, but I didn’t believe it. Even when they were voting, I didn’t believe it.”
“What did you expect?”
“I thought . . . They said all of us were to stand for the common good. I thought what I had done down there in Colorado was good. Good for everybody.”
“Oh, you damn fool! Don’t you see that that’s what you’re being punished for—because it was good?”
He shook his head. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “But I see no way out.”
“Did you promise them to agree to destroy yourself?”
This scene came to mind this afternoon when I read the latest outrage from the Australian Press Council – also an exercise in voluntary self-regulation. As a result of “self-regulation” newspaper columnists cannot hold their own opinions.