Transportation Economics: A Conference of the Universities-National Bureau Committee for Economic Research

Transportation Economics: A Conference of the Universities-National Bureau Committee for Economic Research

Transportation Economics: A Conference of the Universities-National Bureau Committee for Economic Research

Transportation Economics: A Conference of the Universities-National Bureau Committee for Economic Research

Excerpt

The occasion of publishing the proceedings of a Universities-National Bureau Commitee Conference on Transportation Economics seems an appropriate moment to evaluate the general state of transportation economics, as a profession, science, art, or however one may view it. Perhaps the first and most obvious observation is that some revival of professional interest has occurred in transportation economics. Though once a very large recipient of professional attention, transportation could hardly be construed a major interest of economists from approximately 1930 to the middle of the last decade. During that period other matters, quite rightly, were deemed more worthy of professional study, the business cycle being the most obvious new focus of attention. In a very broad sense, transportation and other microeconomic problems went into abeyance as professional attention turned to macroeconomic problems. Furthermore, as firms in other industries grew larger and government became more and more involved in many different aspects of national life, the historic confrontation of big transportation firms and government became, at least relatively, less important.

It would be bold, though, to suggest that any revival in transportation economics has proceeded very far or has been markedly new in character. The rise in interest that has occurred almost certainly represents, in large though not exclusive measure, an almost classical response to the challenges posed by very immediate, public policy issues. These issues in many respects reflect older and long-standing policy problems, though with some new departures. One of the more dramatic and newer issues is the nearly total deterioration in labormanagement relations within the railroad industry; some have gone so far as to characterize this deterioration as the most serious challenge yet posed to the institution of collective bargaining in American economic life. Another important set of public policy issues has been created by the serious financial difficulties, in many cases near or actual bankruptcy, of several major transportation companies; it is . . .

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