Economics/Class Relations

Crony Capitalism and the Transcontinental Railroads

By Ryan McMaken Mises Institute

When Barack Obama used the transcontinental railroads as an example of the wonderful things that can be accomplished with grandiose government programs, he was attacked for mistakenly referring to the railroads as “inter continental.” Notably, he was attacked by approximately no one for talking up a government program that in reality should be best remembered as a pioneering feat in government corruption, corporate welfare, and immense waste.

Although not related in quite the heroic terms it once was, the trans­continental railroads retain their place as one of the great alleged suc­cess stories of nineteenth-century America. According to the popular myths, the same myths now exploited by the president, and challenged by no one, the railroads, these supposedly great monuments to the ingenuity of American industrialists, united East and West by bringing together the economies of the West coast and the East coast. This government program then set the stage for the massive economic growth and national greatness that would occur in the United States during the early twentieth century.

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