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Charles Harper (1842–1912) was a Western Australian pastoralist, newspaper proprietor and influential politician. He was a frontiersman, a businessman and a powerbroker. The central argument advanced in this volume is that Harper established co-operatives in Western Australia, prior to the Great War, as a means to overcome the economic problems faced by frontier settlements that suffered from the tyranny of distance and inadequate capital and infrastructure. Specifically, Harper believed that co-operatives would contribute to the building of the private and public physical capital needed to settle colonists on the large, variable-quality and low-yielding Western Australian landmass. He further believed that co-operatives would provide the countervailing power needed to oppose the monopolistic enterprises that commonly characterise the incomplete markets in such frontier settlements. It is argued that he was successful in establishing co-operatives for these pragmatic ends because he provided the leadership that was required to persuade potential co-operators that the benefits of working in mutual arrangements to achieve a common end outweighed the free-rider and other costs that arise from working in concert (Olsen 2000). This narrative is elaborated upon and verified by presenting a biographical account of Harper with an emphasis on what I argue is his primary legacy as a pragmatic co-operative promoter.
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- The Long Stagnation
David J. Gilchrist
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