Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lessons of History

Neil Reynolds, conservative business columnist (is it redundant to say a business columnist is conservative?) in the Globe & Mail, draws predictably conservative lessons whenever he touches on Canadian history. But at least he touches on history quite often, and he's well informed and provocative when he does. Today he's pondering the historical lessons of railroad building in the nineteenth century.

Late Update:Reynolds returns to the historical theme today. But he seems to me wrong on the facts and more extreme in the conclusions he draws. Conclusions: he suggests regulation of railroads caused their bankruptcy. Surely lack of regulation has been a much more serious threat to the American economy! And he implies the CPR went bankrupt. In fact the CPR's only financial difficulties came during construction, when they could not raise funds from skittish, cautious private investors. As soon as the line was finished and earning revenue, it was highly profitable and quickly repaid its loans, and its stock valuation soared. Still nice to see history on the business pages.

Coincidentally, my friend Ray Argyle has a story in this month's Beaver about Edward Mallandaine, the boy peering out from behind Donald Smith in the iconic photograph of the Last Spike ceremony at Craigallachie in 1885. Ray doesn't just write about Mallandaine -- as a boy he actually met him. Jeez, I met a guy who met the guy in the Last Spike photo -- two degrees of separation. (And Mallandaine met Donald Smith, and Smith met John A Macdonald, and... but I'm getting breathless.)

(photo source: Wikimedia)
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