I _was_ going to go off on a big rant about how the railroads sort of invented accounting, but simultaneously perverted it as part of stock manipulations that historians are really screwed as a result and eventually railroads got regulated almost out of business, but then I thought, you know, I bet someone else has said this much more effectively elsewhere.
Note: I don't think regulation is bad, any more than I think accounting is bad. But you can warp accounting to take suckers to the cleaners, and you can use regulation punitively to reduce the power of people who are otherwise taking horrible advantage. I get that when you want to build infrastructure, and you know perfectly well you can't get the subscription through honest representation, you might want to con a lot of small investors to get them to pay for the road. And I get that when you're dealing with railroads in the mid- to late-teens, you might feel compelled to really lean on 'em hard in order to stop them from crushing the workers down to the point where communism looked like a much better deal than capitalism.
But geez. There comes a time when you should listen to them crying uncle.
ETA: I knew it! I fucking knew it! R. is _wrong wrong wrong_! But in his favor, everyone agreed with him for _decades_ before they fixed it. As soon as I found out about the lack of depreciation on track (hell, on rolling stock, but they did fix that), I _knew_ that was the meat of the nut.
[Edited to fix typo: RRB] accounting is _stupid_. If something lasts so damn long it messes with the schedules you assembled for, oh, I don't know, coal power plants, or flour mills or widget factories, then you _invent a different schedule_. You do _not_ pretend that track is eternal. Fuck!
I am actually have trouble believing just how _evil_ ICC was to railroads. I mean, yeah, sure, the rail barons deserved it, but enough with the kicking the dead and rotting corpse.
STILL MORE: I am disturbed by this whole thing, tho. Here I am _happy_ that Reagan's tax revision did at least _something_ worthwhile. But it isn't _deregulation_ that I'm in favor of here. Adjusting regulation isn't bad.