Governments have generally been more intimately involved 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 always a matter of close concern to major maritime powers, though there have been few of those in the continents covered in this volume. 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 parts of Europe and North America 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 recognised as a government function. Telegraphs fell naturally into the same niche in most countries where they were not simply an adjunct of the railways, and telephones generally followed. And in most countries the potential influence of radio, and later television, led to their direct control by governments, at least initially and in part, and hence to some form of licensing system, which produced a statistical by-product. Taxation of motor vehicles has had a similar effect.
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- Transport and Communications
B. R. Mitchell
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