Just starting this book but I was amazed to see that my public library system stocks five times more books arguing against atheism for every one book...moreJust starting this book but I was amazed to see that my public library system stocks five times more books arguing against atheism for every one book for atheism.
I agree with one of the first reviewers who said this about the book: "I felt that the author's tone is similar to those of religious leaders, as if he expects the readers to take his arguments on faith."
I was expecting more meat to his arguments although not enough to choke me. It wasn't a bad read but it took a bit of effort to justify sticking with it to the end.(less)
My heavens this book sucked like no other I've ever read. The author is a former Professor of Business History at Harvard who I trust is a better clas...moreMy heavens this book sucked like no other I've ever read. The author is a former Professor of Business History at Harvard who I trust is a better classroom lecturer than a writer. He follows no chronology in the history of railroads jumping across multiple decades in the same paragraph to pointless ends. He regularly adds useless commentary and witticisms that reveal his biases not only with regard to railroads, but also commerce, politics, and his view of "the American way". So why stick with this book to the end? I suppose there's just enough interesting facts and historical perspective to keep slogging... although I don't think even in the midst of Moby Dick that I told myself so many times that "this is a waste of time". The author does a good job of discussing colonial American transportation systems before the advent of railroads. He also covers all the facets of American business (skilled labor, middle management, operation of complex systems, law, banking) that were essentially birthed in the railroad industry. I was hoping for a more detailed explanation of the destructive power of government regulation which he constantly referenced but rarely addressed in specifics. The single most important fact gleaned from this book is that capital intensive industry's in the US are virtually pre-destined to bankruptsy. Bankers provide start-up capital, sell stocks and bonds to investors, but saddle emerging enterprises with too much debt to succeed. Financiers then buy back into the enterprise after courts wipe out the debt and leave investors penniless. On top of this the government identified railroads as monopolies and over-regulated them to near-extinction. Railroad executives and stockholders were more than happy to pocket every ounce of revenue for themselves knowing the government would not allow any railway to be liquidated. Why invest in the physical plant when you can hand over a dilapidated business for the government to fix. That's the result of excessive regulation. [Of course, everyone knows that death and dismemberment were the penalties of under-regulation.:] I'm hoping the most valuable nugget in this book is a reference to "No Way to Run a Railroad - the Untold Story of the Penn Central" by Stephen Salsbury found on page 415 in the source listings. The Source Listing says the following: "There is no comprehensive history of American railroads and probably never will be. Such a work would run to several large volumes, lack forward narrative drive, ... and suffer from weaknesses inherent in joint authorship undertakings." Funny that the author accomplished no narrative drive in a single volume composed all by himself. (less)