A Philosophical Explanation for Rail's Decline PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 23 September 2007 20:36

The August 2007 lead article on an interesting economics site, http://equilibrium-economicum.net, offers an original, quite plausable explanation for the decline of rail during the 20th Century: the dominant economic philosophy didn't support continued investment in rail, particularly passenger service.

From the article link, http://equilibrium-economicum.net/backontherails.htm:

I have a theory that helps to explain this phenomenon. The reasons for rail decline go deeper than the obvious facts of the transport market. The basic problem for railways has been philosophical. A railway is by nature a fixed, constrained, highly regulated system in which passengers mingle and travel together.

But the philosophy that took over the world in the mid-twentieth century, notably in the 1960s, is dominated by the notions of deconstraint, of deregulation, of individualism. It repudiates the idea that we are a society of people doing things together, preferring the ideal of everyone doing his (or her) own thing individually. Travel any time you like, not when the railway timetable says you can. Drive your own car, rather than share a railway carriage with other travellers.

In this ideological climate, railways had little chance. For Reagan, Thatcher and other politicians of their kind, the railway was not merely a pestilential consumer of taxpayers' money; it was also a relic of the bad old days of corporatism, of institutional regulation, of state-sponsored public services, of the coherent society rather than the amorphous throng of free-wheeling individualists.


Last Updated on Sunday, 23 September 2007 21:37