The Politics of Industrial Change: Railway Policy in North America

The Politics of Industrial Change: Railway Policy in North America

The Politics of Industrial Change: Railway Policy in North America

The Politics of Industrial Change: Railway Policy in North America

Excerpt

THE U.S. and Canadian governments have been challenged to help their industries adapt to increasing competitive pressures. In this book, R. Kent Weaver examines the political barriers the two governments confront in this effort. He argues that their constraints are different-- notably, fragmentation of governmental power in the United States and intense regional conflict in Canada. But the impact of these constraints is similar: an unwillingness or inability on the part of the government to impose concentrated, visible losses on well-organized producer, consumer, and labor groups. As a result, the two governments tend to delay rather than aid industries' adjustment to changing markets. He concludes that these constraints are so fundamental to the two political systems that neither government has much prospect for improving its ability to help industries adjust in the future.

In reaching this conclusion, Weaver examines three tasks that are crucial for executing effective industrial policies: selecting policies that promote rather than prevent sectoral adjustment, choosing policy instruments (for example, regulations, loans, and subsidies) that are appropriate to an industry's problems, and implementing those policies once they have been selected. For this last task, he focuses on problems associated with the use of public enterprise.

The author illustrates his general arguments with a comparative case study of U.S. and Canadian federal policies toward the railroad industry. In particular, he looks at the establishment and subsequent operation of the four major government-owned firms: the Consolidated Rail Corporation and Amtrak in the United States, and Canadian National Railways and VIA Rail Canada in Canada. Weaver argues that railway policies in the two countries have differed significantly in recent years. Canada, though more protectionist than the United States, has had more freedom in choosing policy instruments. But both governments have attempted to delay needed adjustments in the rail industry much more than they . . .

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