The Texas Railroad Commission: Understanding Regulation In America To The Mid-Twentieth Century

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Texas A&M University Press, 2005 - Business & Economics - 323 pages
Before OPEC took center stage, one state agency in Texas was widely believed to set oil prices for the world. The Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) evolved from its founding in 1891 to a multi-divisional regulatory commission that oversaw not only railroads but also a number of other industries central to the modern American economy: petroleum production, natural gas utilities, and motor carriers (buses and trucks).

William R. Childs’s unprecedented study of the TRC from its founding until the mid-twentieth century extends our knowledge of commission-style regulation. It focuses on the interplay between business and regulators, between state and national regulatory commissions, and among the three branches of government through a process of “pragmatic federalism.”

Drawing on extensive primary research, Childs demonstrates that the alleged power of regulatory commissions has been more constrained than most observers have recognized. As he shows, the myth of power was devised by the agency itself as part of building a civil religion of Texas oil. Together, the myth and the civil religion enabled the TRC to convince Texas oil operators to follow production controls and thus stabilized the American oil industry by the 1940s.

The result of this fascinating study is a more nuanced understanding of federalism and of regulation, the forces shaping it, and its outcomes.

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Railroad Regulation to 1920
Pragmatic Federalism The Railroad Problems and the Regulatory Commissions to 1890
The Movement for a Texas Commission
Regulation Dual Management and Federalism The Reagan Commission 18911903
Continuity to Conflict to Cooperation 19031920
Transformation Pragmatic Expansion of Regulation into Postwar America
Regulation as Conservation Dual Management in the Oil Fields
A Changing Agency Culture and Two New Industries to Regulate
Variation on Pragmatic Federalism East Texas Economics and Culture
Transformation Complete Limitations Exposed The Regulatory State in the 1940s and Beyond
Understanding Regulation in America to the Midtwentieth Century

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Page 31 - Constitution protects, we find that when private property is "affected with a public interest, it ceases to be juris privati only.
Page 34 - It cannot be too strongly insisted upon, that the right of continuous transportation from one end of the country to the other is essential in modern times to that freedom of commerce from the restraints which the States might choose to impose upon it, that the commerce clause was intended to secure.
Page 77 - A reasonable rate is one that will make just and fair return to the carrier when it is charged to all who are to pay it without unjust discrimination against any, and when the revenue it produces is subject to no improper reductions. No carrier has any ground for just complaint if its published rates are reduced by the public authorities to the standard of the average it accepts, when by direct violation of law, or by devices that are intended to evade its provisions, the published rates are departed...
Page 267 - Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. New York: Basic Books, 1976, p.
Page 31 - Property does become clothed with a public interest when used in a manner to make it of public consequence and affect the community at large. When, therefore, one devotes his property to a use in which the public has an interest, he, in effect...
Page 65 - ... corporation in Oklahoma, the amount of money expended to procure the right of way, and the amount of money it would require to reconstruct the roadbed, track, depots, and transportation facilities, and to replace all the physical properties belonging to the railroad...
Page 127 - ... result of misconception both of law and of fact. The Congress is able completely to regulate interstate transportation without the exercise of any control over transportation which lies wholly within a state; so, also, is this Commission, by the proper exercise of the powers which have been conferred. If the alleged preferential intrastate rates are reasonable, and if the transportation conditions from the interstate...
Page 32 - Constitution, and have misunderstood the interpretation it has received, it is not thus limited in its scope, and thus impotent for good. It has a much more extended operation than either court, State, or Federal has given to it. The provision, it is to be observed, places property under the same protection as life and liberty. Except by due process of law, no State can deprive any person of either.
Page 307 - The Interstate Compact to Conserve Oil and Gas : an Experiment in Cooperative State Production Control (Mississippi Law Journal, March-May 1946, pp.

About the author (2005)

WILLIAM R. CHILDS is an associate professor of history at the Ohio State University. His earlier book Trucking and the Public Interest: The Emergence of Federal Regulation, 1914–1940 was listed by Choice magazine as an “Outstanding Academic Book.” He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.

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