Magazine article The Spectator

Vitruvius on Rail Franchising

Magazine article The Spectator

Vitruvius on Rail Franchising

Article excerpt

Ever since nationalisation was invented in the 19th century, private franchising (e. g. the West Coast Main Line) has raised the question: why should private business profit from a public service which the state 'should' run for all?

Ancients, obviously, never gave it a second thought.

When Romans needed roads and aqueducts built, armies serviced, mines worked etc. , they contracted the work out, as they did too with collecting provincial taxes. This always meant trouble. Whatever system was used - from private consortia (publicani) buying the right to collect taxes or local bigwigs collecting them under the eye of the Roman financial officer - there were always complaints about unfairness and extortion.

There were the usual problems with contracted work, too. The famous Roman architect Vitruvius launched an attack on inaccurate building estimates, proposing a Greek solution which has much to commend it today:

'In the celebrated and spacious Greek city of Ephesus, there is said to be an ancient law established by the forefathers, harsh in its requirements but by no means partial in its justice. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.