The Simplified Wealth of Nations of Adam Smith, Book 5, Chapter 1f: Government Expenses -- General Public Works


Chapter 1f, Part 3: The expence of public works and institutions

69 The sovereign's third and last duty is building and maintaining advantageous public works and institutions for society.   70 The public institutions and public works necessary for society are those: This chapter will be divided into three articles examining how their costs may be most properly defrayed.

Article 1: Public Works and Institutions Necessary for Facilitating General Commerce


71 Examples of the public works which facilitate any country's commerce are: Their construction and maintenance costs very differently in the different periods of society.   72 The executive power does not have to pay for the cost of those public works from the public revenue.   73 In most cases, a highway, bridge, or navigable canal may be made and maintained by a small toll.   74 Carriages passing over a highway, or barges sailing through a canal pay a toll proportional to their weight.   75 Examples of luxury carriages are: Examples of necessary carriages are: When the toll on luxury carriages is raised in proportion to their weight relative to necessary carriages, the rich's indolence and vanity is made to contribute to the poor's relief.   76 When high roads, bridges, canals, etc. are made and supported by the commerce which supports them: The grandeur and magnificence of those works must be suited to what that commerce can afford to pay.   77 In several parts of Europe, the ton or lock-duty on a canal is private property.   78 The tolls for maintaining a high road cannot, with any safety, be made the property of private persons.   79 In Great Britain, the abuses of the trustees in managing those tolls were very justly complained of in many cases.   80 The money levied at turnpikes in Great Britain so much exceeds what is needed to repair the roads.   81 A big revenue might be gained but probably not near as the projectors of this plan have supposed.
  1. 82 If the turnpike tolls should be a resource for supplying state exigencies, the tolls would be increased as those exigencies required.
 
  1. 83 A tax on carriages according to weight is a very equal tax for road repairs.
 
  1. 84 If government neglected the repair of the high roads, it would be more difficult to compel the proper application of any part of the turnpike tolls.
  85 In France, the funds for repairing high roads are under the executive power.   86 By the ancient law of France and other parts of Europe, the labour of the people of the countryside was under a local or provincial magistrate.   87 In China and other Asian governments, the executive power manages the repair of high roads and the maintenance of navigable canals.   88 A local or provincial revenue is managed by a local or provincial administration. 89 The abuses of the local and provincial administration on a local and provincial revenue may appear enormous.
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Next: Chapter 1g: Commercial institutions