The Best Transportation System in the World
Railroads, Trucks, Airlines, and American Public Policy in the Twentieth Century
Mark H. Rose, Bruce E. Seely, and Paul F. Barrett
"The authors have ambitiously tackled a massive topic and have succeeded in showing the complexities of regulatory policies over an extended period, grasping the 'big picture.'. . . This type of study is long overdue, filling a void in the literature of American transportation history."—Roger Grant, Enterprise and Society
"This important book argues persuasively that it was history and politics, not markets and competition, that determined public policy toward transportation from 1920 to 1980. Skillfully pulling together the histories of the various modes of transportation, the book makes the case that politics was more significant even than technical expertise—invariably, the work of experts was bested by politics."—William H. Becker, George Washington University
The Best Transportation System in the World focuses on the centrality of government in organizing the nation's transportation industries. As the authors show, over the course of the twentieth century, transportation in the United States was as much a product of hard-fought politics, lobbying, and litigation as it was a naturally evolving system of engineering and available technology.
For example, in the mid-1950s, President Eisenhower, concerned about a railroad industry in decline, asked Congress to grant railroad executives authority to modify prices and service even as he introduced the legislation that provided for the national highway system. And as early as the 1960s, presidents across the political spectrum, including Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter, sought broad deregulation of the transportation industry in order to prime the economic pump or, in the 1970s, reverse stagflation. At every turn, the authors contend, political considerations served to shape the businesses and infrastructure that Americans use to travel.
Mark H. Rose is Professor of History at Florida Atlantic University. Bruce E. Seely is Professor of History at Michigan Technological University. Paul F. Barrett was Professor of History and Chair of the Department of Humanities at Illinois Institute of Technology.