NPR's Morning Edition this morning had an interview with Richard White who has just written Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. White says that there are many similarities between the days after the Civil War when the Railroad Barons ruled the economy and now.
But that's not the story Richard White tells in his new book Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. White describes how the rail corporations shaped the U.S. economy as we know it today — and not entirely for the better.
"They bring about a great deal of political controversy and corruption," White tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "They yield environmental damage, they are conceptually grand, and in practice, they really amount to being disasters in many respects."
He points to the corruption that is so familiar to us today.
"It establishes a kind of networking between politics and business that persists to this day. Essentially for me, corruption is quite simple: It's the trading of public favors for private goods, and that's what happens repeatedly with the railroads and the federal government."
One thing to remember is that it was the infamous Santa Clara County vs Southern Pacific Railroad where the Supreme Court first opined the personhood of the corporation that led to the perfidious Citizens United decision that is the bain of our politics today.