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Bench-Marks in the Tennessee Valley

I. Strength in the Hills

by Arthur E. Morgan

Chairman, Tennessee Valley Authority

January 1934

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SUCH unified control and operation implies government ownership and operation. The control of this great electric-power system by a private corporation would give economic power over the people of the region which no self-appointed private business men ought to hold. Such management and operation would of necessity be governmental and public in its nature, whether privately or publicly owned. It would be necessary to exercise the right of eminent domain, and to have control over the economic life blood of a vast region.

Just as an adverse balance of foreign trade tends to bankrupt a nation, so the constant drain from a municipality of payments to a foreign-owned utility tends to economic impoverishment. Given administration of equal quality, the ideal status of a city utility is that it is fully amortized and is owned by the public it serves. Regional independence from a perpetual drain is no less important for an area as large as that of the TVA than for a city.

I believe the President knows that no waving of a magic political wand will do away with such economic drains and the social frustration that goes with it for the people of a whole region. In every move we make to bring about a change from waste to order we shall be treading on someone's toes, hurting someone who profits by it. Even the housewife who establishes thrift in her kitchen is robbing the scavenger who collects her garbage. Every step of economic planning will be contested by those who are interested in things as they are.

Support for such a program of social and economic planning as projected in the Tennessee Valley must come from those who will for the moment overlook their minor losses in the process of readjustment, and will think of the widely distributed prosperity and well-being which will come if a fair chance can be given for the fulfillment of reasonable hopes on the part of all men.


Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2001-2003