AMTRAK AND THE TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY: A CASE STUDY OF GOVERNMENT CORPORATIONS AND AUTONOMY

THOMAS JOSEPH MCKENNA, Fordham University

Abstract

Although government corporations are an important part of the American political economy, there has been little systematic examination of this form of government intervention in the economy. As the question of government enterprise autonomy is emphasized by the mainstream literature on public corporations, it was decided that the circumstances which lead to government corporation autonomy would be the focus of this study.^ Government corporation autonomy is defined as freedom for public venture management to make decisions without large scale interference from a coalition of economic interest groups and their allies in the federal government. In an attempt to find a systematic explanation for the circumstances under which government enterprises achieve autonomy, it was hypothesized that a number of political and economic variables influence public corporation autonomy.^ Amtrak and the Tennessee Valley Authority were chosen as case studies because they represent different ends of the autonomy spectrum; Amtrak has had a difficult time in achieving autonomy while the government utility has been generally successful. The role of a variety of political and economic actors in the environment of these corporations is discussed in depth with regard to how they influence government enterprise autonomy.^ It was concluded that economic factors, such as the role the government corporation plays in the economy, market conditions and the presence or absence of private competitors, are the key variables with regard to autonomy. Although political factors, such as interest group power, attitudes of political - economic elites and distributive politics are also important, the economic factors determine the governing rules under which the political factors operate. The findings were then generalized to include all federal government corporations by the creation of different government enterprise models.^ Within the market context of the government corporation, political factors may enhance autonomy; but the importance of the politics is contingent on the economic function of the government enterprise. The study of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Amtrak therefore has not only produced a framework for understanding government corporate autonomy, but has helped to indicate the function of the government corporation in the American political economy.^

Subject Area

Political science

Recommended Citation

MCKENNA, THOMAS JOSEPH, "AMTRAK AND THE TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY: A CASE STUDY OF GOVERNMENT CORPORATIONS AND AUTONOMY" (1982). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8219253.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8219253

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