Private capital, public credit and the decline of American railways in the mid-20th century
From the mid-19th Century until the Great Depression, banks, insurance companies and other large institutional investors supplied railways with external capital that supported their rise to near hegemony over transport in the U.S. This regime ended in the 1930’s, when widespread rail bankruptcies threatened broader credit markets. The federal government intervened via a powerful, new, public financial intermediary—the Reconstruction Finance Corporation—to socialize devalued rail debt, which largely removed private institutional investors from rail capital markets. At this defining moment, the Roosevelt Administration could have used its financial and political leverage to rationalize structural weaknesses in the rail industry. It did not. Thus by the time the Depression ended, railways were significantly weakened vis a vis their increasingly successful competitors in highway-based transport. Thus, the decline of American railways was caused more by financial factors than, as existing historiography suggests, by either excessive government regulation or failures of railway management.
|Date of creation:||15 Aug 2009|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Web page: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Michael D. Bordo & Claudia Goldin & Eugene N. White, 1998. "The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bord98-1, December.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:17495. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ekkehart Schlicht)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.