American Railroad Problem By Leo Sharfman HC 1921
American Railroad Problem By Leo Sharfman HC 1921

American Railroad Problem By Leo Sharfman HC 1921

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American Railroad Problem By Leo Sharfman HC 1921
The American Railroad Problem By Leo Sharfman Hard Cover 1921 Century New World Series 474 Pages
THE object of this book is to provide for the intelligent citizen-including the large inarticulate public, as well as the student, the publicist, the legislator, the business man, the shipper, and the railroad security holder, executive, and employee-an analysis of the American railroad problem as it presents itself to-day. Of all the great current social and economic questions, it is doubtful whether any domestic problem is as significant or far-reaching, from the standpoint of the general welfare, as the problem of the railroads. Not only is every citizen vitally concerned in its satisfactory adjustment, but the degree of success which crowns the joint efforts of private enterprise and government activity in its solution will constitute the most convincing test of the efficacy of our democratic institutions in meeting the dominant tasks of this generation. At every point, therefore, the essential issues must be conceived in terms of their public bearing, and each measure designed to adjust conflicting claims must be assessed with reference to the common good. A great complexity of interests is involved. Even when reduced to most general categories, they comprehend those of the users of the transportation service, of the owners of the railroad properties, and of the employees engaged in the performance of transportation tasks. While each of these interests must be adequately safeguarded, the public stake in the proper functioning of the transportation industry transcends them all. "Justice," once wrote Dean Roscoe Pound, "is the ideal compromise between the activities of each and the activities of all in a crowded world." A just solution of the railroad problem involves a nice balancing of all legitimate interests, rather than the mere recognition of diverse interests, each entitled to prosecute its own ends with equal freedom-the virtual acceptance of the Spencerian formula of "the liberty of each limited only by the like liberties of all." The railroad problem must be treated in its every aspect as a public problem.
The difficulties involved in this problem are neither new nor transient. From the very beginning of railroad transportation in the United States the American people have found themselves compelled to adopt a distinct public attitude toward the railroads. This attitude has varied, in different periods and with reference to different elements of the problem, from a policy of helpfulness to one of repressive regulation; but the necessity of intimate public concern in the status of the railroads has always been recognized. It is impossible to understand the post-war railroad situation without an understanding of its historical antecedents. Recent railroad experience, particularly since the outbreak of the Great War, is deserving of special consideration. Transportation difficulties were dramatically accentuated by the imposition of extraordinary war burdens upon the carriers; and the war-time administration of the railroads, both through voluntary private cooperation and through Federal Control, involved many striking departures from traditional methods, in operating practice as well as in public policy. A just evaluation of the significance of the war period necessitates an impartial consideration of the outstanding facts of the experience. The current interpretations which are based upon a priori dogmas, whether prejudicial to the efficacy of private enterprise or of governmental effort, must yield to the reasoned conclusions which spring from objective investigation and rational analysis. Only through such an approach can the essentials of constructive policy be soundly determined, and the adequacy and permanence of the existing railroad adjustment intelligently appraised. It is to be recognized, finally, that the problem of railroad relationships is a highly complex one, and that no mere social doctrine or simple administrative device can be relied upon to provide an automatic solution. Neither reversion to "the vigorous individualism of the old days," nor acceptance of "the tenets of forward-looking liberalism" can in itself solve the American railroad problem. The relative merits of public operation and private management, and the effectiveness of the traditional regulative approach in matters of service, rates, credit, capitalization, financial return, and labor relationships must receive detailed examination ; and the essential facts in each of these fields must be interpreted in the light of the influence of the organic needs of our dynamic industrial institutions, of the inhibitions of the prevailing social psychology, and of the dictates of the dominant political philosophy.
It is a pleasure to record grateful acknowledgment of indebtedness to Mr. It L. Caverly, my colleague in the Department of Economics at the University of Michigan, for valuable assistance in the preparation of this work. His painstaking and intelligent efforts have contributed substantially to whatever merit this study may possess.

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