Mr. Benton wrote:
what market , if there is only one railroad serving a customer ???? .
unless you have a true free market ( which would mean open access ) , then shippers need some form of protection from excessive rates by the railroad .
We concur (with the first sentence, anyway) ...... the question is: Given the increasing emphasis on grades and physical right of way in the pricing/competitive arena, how can we level the playing field (literally!) with minimum reliance upon the state's power to coerce?
And back in the dark days of the 1950's and 60's, the idea of keeping the rolling stock, but selling the fixed plant to the Federal government was occasionally discussed. Unfortunately, the ability of the surviving roads to rehabilitate their plant, re-orient their marketing strategy, gain labor contracts more in line with present-day realities, and all of it with no direct aid other than the temporary custody of Conrail, leaves those players justifiably suspicious given the thirty-plus-year destruction of the auto industry due largely to an unpredictable series of mixed signals, combined with no verifiable limits to the potential for abuse via misregulation.
What's more, while it can't be discerned exaclty how much of the new Administration's anti-business stance is just posturing to please the agressive far-Left cadre' at the center of the Democratic coalition, the very prominence of that group is enough to make anyone with a basic pro-market orientation uneasy.
Over the long run, a policy of open access should be consistent with the beliefs of those who believe that open competition provides the greatest good for the greatest number. The problem lies in the fact that the men who rebuilt our efficient, and privately-held core infrastructure justifiably don't want to see it looted by those who view political power through an ethic not far removed from that of a street gang.
Somewhere, there ought to be room for a couple of innovations that would start things moving in the right direction. But the industry's suspicions toward those who essentially possess life-and-death power over it are very well-founded.