Transport and Communications

  • B. R. Mitchell


Government has generally been involved more intimately in the provision of means of transport and communication than in agriculture or industry, at any rate until very recently. As a consequence, there is usually more statistical material available from the past than on most other economic activities. Shipping was a matter of close concern to all major maritime powers, though there were few of those in the Americas until quite recently. The railways were frequently of military as well as economic importance, and they necessitated the investment of large lumps of capital, on which the social return seems generally to have exceeded by a considerable margin that which could be captured by investors. Outside the United States, it was fairly unusual for private promoters to attract this capital without some assistance from governments. Some form of reporting to governments, therefore, was required of most railways. Postal services were long recognized as a government function, and telegraphs fell naturally into the same niche in most countries other than the USA, where they were not simply an adjunct of the railways, and telephones generally followed. And outside North America and certain Central American countries influenced by the United States, the potential influence of radio led to its direct control by governments and to some form of licensing system, which produced a statistical by-product. Taxation of motor vehicles had a similar effect.


Steam Shipping Argentina Dispatch Peru 


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© B R Mitchell 1993

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  • B. R. Mitchell

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