Dixon-Yates: A Study in Power Politics

Wildavsky, Aaron. Dixon-Yates: A Study in Power Politics. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962.

“For several years one of the most important controversies in American politics was symbolized by the phrase “Dixon-Yates.” It was, along with the Hell’s Canyon dispute, a major morality play in which the contestants struggled for a wide variety of large rewards – economic, ideological and personal. In this book Aaron Wildavsky has done an extraordinary job of presenting the drama with a good sense of theatre and, in addition, pointing up to the morals and relating them to some general propositions about the political process.

The drama, for those who have forgotten, revolved around the contract made between a private utility group and the AEC to build a power plant in West Memphis, Arkansas. The power would be fed into the TVA system for use in Memphis, Tennessee, in orer to replace power TVA was to supply AEC in Paducah, Kentucky. President Eisenhower gave his personal backing to the contract which is administration conceived to be a step toward halting TVA expansion and, at the same time, saving the government considerable money. TVA supporters and other public power advocated opposed the contract as threatening to their cause and as an expensive and nearly riskless “giveaway to the interests.” For two years the struggle went on. The administration had superior authority to make the agreement, and efforts by Democrats in Congress to block the action failed. But the public power forces had some authority too, principally in the form of investigative power.”

– From a book review in: Midwest Journal of Political Science, Vol. 7, No. 1, Feb., 1963.