Studies Ruled by Political Philosophy.
I’ve just read a paper by Randall O’Toole, who works for a prominent “think tank”. Basically, O’Toole says Amtrak would be a profitable enterprise if the federal government was out of the picture and Amtrak could operate as a private company.
Frankly, I have run out of patience with these pseudo-scholars who work for “think tanks” with political agendas. These zealots constantly complain about almost any kind of government involvement—whether funding or regulation (now called “over-reach”).
It goes without saying that, in an ideal world, Amtrak would be serving the public’s rail transportation needs and also operating at a profit. But these papers advocating the privatization of Amtrak were not written by dispassionate scholars. Quite the opposite, in fact. The authors are political ideologues sent out into the world to oppose every new transit or passenger rail project by the two main sources for this kind of academic fakery: the Cato Institute, which promotes the libertarian philosophy and was founded by the Koch brothers; and the Heritage Foundation, created and supported by the ultra-conservative beer magnate, Joseph Coors.
One of the ideologies that shapes the agendas of both organizations is that the government shouldn’t be engaged in activities that private enterprise can do better and more efficiently. And when it comes to transportation, both of these “think tanks” will routinely and vigorously oppose your city’s plan to build or expand a transit system invariably claiming it would be a financial disaster.
But getting back to this latest “study” from the Cato Institute, author O’Toole claims Amtrak would operate at a profit if only the federal and state governments get out of the way. O’Toole has generated many such studies over the years, but this one is based on information gleaned from Amtrak’s infamous accounting system, which says the Northeast Corridor is profitable, and the national network loses money, a claim that is almost universally doubted. The great pity is that Cato and the Heritage Foundation keep generating these “studies” and the media report on them them as serious, scholarly works.
Which they ain’t.