The following is a list of books conservatives should read to understand how we got in our current transportation cul-de-sac. After reading this selection one cannot help but think our current situation is a big mess created by greed, corruption, incompetence and hopelessly misguided progressivism. The inspiration for this list came from “the canon” developed by my friend William S. Lind for the U.S. Marine Corps to further understanding of the development of the four generations of modern warfare. The canon, consisting of seven books, if read in the prescribed order will take the reader through the first, second, third and fourth generation warfare. As a friend of mine in the US Marines remarked on the list, “Even if the guy is a total rock, he’ll get it after reading the canon.” The transportation reading list revealed in this paper is still a work in progress, so the order is not so precise and story not yet fully chronicled in a critical way. Yet, the accounts cited below should convey to the reader a general sense of how we reached our current dilemma (or debacle, if you will).
The best place to start is with the development of the railroad industry, where misguided progressivism, corruption and statist mentalities almost totally destroyed what should be considered a crown jewel of the American free enterprise system. Two books by Albro Martin provide a good overview of the rise, decline and revitalization of American railroad industry: Enterprise denied; origins of the decline of American railroads, 1897-1917 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971) and Railroads Triumphant: The Growth, Rejection, and Rebirth of a Vital American Force (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992). While the federal government assisted the construction of private railroads with land grants, this was not without a price as railroads had to carry government cargoes (mails and military supplies) and personnel at reduced cost. Railroads also paid income taxes and property taxes, perhaps making them the only form of transportation to be profitable to federal and state governments.