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Competition at work : railroads vs. monopoly in the U.S. shipping industry

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  • Thomas J. Holmes
  • James A. Schmitz

Abstract

This study primarily establishes two things: (1) that monopoly has been pervasive in the U.S. water transportation industry in both the 19th and 20th centuries and has led to prices above competitive levels and the adoption of inefficient technologies and (2) that the competition of railroads has greatly weakened this monopolistic tendency, leading to lower water transport prices and fewer inefficient technologies. The study establishes these points using standard economic theory and extensive historical U.S. data on the behavior of unions and shipping companies. These gains from competition have been ignored by researchers studying the contribution of railroads to U.S. economic growth. Researchers have assumed that if railroads had not been developed, the long-distance transportation industry would have been competitive. This study shows that it would not have been. The quantitative estimates of previous studies thus are likely to have significantly understated the gains from the development of railroads.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas J. Holmes & James A. Schmitz, 2001. "Competition at work : railroads vs. monopoly in the U.S. shipping industry," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 3-29.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmqr:y:2001:i:spr:p:3-29:n:v.25no.2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John R. Commons, 1905. "Types of American Labor Unions: The 'Longshoremen of the Great Lakes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 59-85.
    2. Romer, Paul, 1994. "New goods, old theory, and the welfare costs of trade restrictions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 5-38, February.
    3. Thomas J. Holmes & James A. Schmitz, 1995. "Resistance to new technology and trade between areas," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-17.
    4. Steven Tadelis & Oliver E.Williamson, 2012. "Transaction Cost Economics," Introductory Chapters,in: Robert Gibbons & John Roberts (ed.), : The Handbook of Organizational Economics Princeton University Press.
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    6. Edward C. Prescott & Stephen L. Parente, 1999. "Monopoly Rights: A Barrier to Riches," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1216-1233, December.
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    9. Francis McLaughlin, 1998. "The Replacement of the Knights of Labor by the International Longshoremen's Association in the Port of Boston," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 401, Boston College Department of Economics.
    10. Thomas J. Holmes & James A. Schmitz, 1994. "Resistance to technology and trade between areas," Staff Report 184, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    11. Thomas J. Holmes, 1990. "Consumer Investment in Product-Specific Capital: The Monopoly Case," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(3), pages 789-801.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Benjamin Bridgman & Shi Qi & James Schmitz, 2006. "Does Regulation Reduce Productivity? Evidence From Regulation of the U.S. Beet-Sugar Manufacturing Industry During the Sugar Acts, 1934-74," 2006 Meeting Papers 438, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Steven J. Davis & Luis Rivera-Batiz, 2005. "The Climate for Business Development and Employment Growth in Puerto Rico," NBER Working Papers 11679, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Jeremy Greenwood & David Weiss, 2013. "Mining Surplus: Modeling James A. Schmitz's Link Between Competition and Productivity," Economie d'Avant Garde Research Reports 22, Economie d'Avant Garde.
    4. Herrendorf, Berthold & Teixeira, Arilton, 2003. "Monopoly Rights can Reduce Income Big Time," CEPR Discussion Papers 3854, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Lee, Choong Bae & Wan, Junbin & Shi, Wenming & Li, Kevin, 2014. "A cross-country study of competitiveness of the shipping industry," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 366-376.
    6. Thomas J. Holmes & David K. Levine & James A. Schmitz, 2012. "Monopoly and the Incentive to Innovate When Adoption Involves Switchover Disruptions," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 1-33, August.
    7. Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Prosperity and Depression: 2002 Richard T. Ely Lecture," Working Papers 618, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    8. Timothy Dunne & Shawn Klimek & James Schmitz, Jr., 2010. "Competition and Productivity: Evidence from the Post WWII U.S. Cement Industry," Working Papers 10-29, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    9. Adom, Philip Kofi, 2015. "Asymmetric impacts of the determinants of energy intensity in Nigeria," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 570-580.
    10. Timothy J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(1), pages 1-18, January.
    11. Jerzmanowski, Michal, 2007. "Total factor productivity differences: Appropriate technology vs. efficiency," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(8), pages 2080-2110, November.
    12. Seck, Abdoulaye, 2012. "International technology diffusion and economic growth: Explaining the spillover benefits to developing countries," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 437-451.
    13. Lai, Mingyong & Peng, Shuijun & BAO, Qun, 2006. "Technology spillovers, absorptive capacity and economic growth," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 300-320.
    14. Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Prosperity and Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 1-15, May.
    15. Timothy J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott(), 2007. "Great depressions of the twentieth century," Monograph, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, number 2007gdott.

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    Keywords

    Transportation ; Monopolies;

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