University of Canberra
A business owned and operated by government.
For some, the whole process of development—of creating, fostering, and guiding the necessary social and economic forces for development, for which usually only the state has adequate resources and power—may be regarded as public enterprise. Mostly, however, the term is used within the discipline of public administration with a rather more precise meaning. A. H. Hanson (1959) was codifying from an already long tradition of scholarship, and from a series of significant United Nations documents in the early post-World War II period, when he offered this definition : "in a more restricted and more familiar sense ... (public enterprise means) state ownership and operation of industrial, agricultural, financial and commercial undertakings" (p. 115).
Although the idea of public enterprise has taken a battering in recent years, the practice is as old as civilization itself. In the more general sense, it was responsible for the planning and construction of vast schemes of flood control and irrigation along the major waterways around which the early civilizations developed; it built the Great Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China. In the more limited sense, it stored and distributed the grain, salt, and other staple foods on which those civilizations depended. Such enterprise was associated with systems of "hydraulic agriculture," or agriculture involving the control of water on a large scale: those were systems which both permitted and demanded intensive cultivation, clear division of labor and social coordination on a massive scale. The works already indicated were often accom