Relations of government and private enterprise in New Zealand, 1860-1875 : a documentary study. (1949)
AuthorsOathout, Evelyn Lewisshow all
New Zealand's leadership in “state socialism” is commonly thought of as originating in the 1890's, the period of the Liberal-Labour coalition, though writers on the subject have generally made a passing bow to the 1870’s when Sir Julius Vogel led the young colony out of economic stagnation by means of his program for opening the land with public works and government assisted immigration. In this paper I have undertaken to recount the story of that earlier development, together with its antecedents, as it appeared in those official publications of the successive Parliaments from 1860 to 1875 found in the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand. I have limited my subject by omitting the tremendous question of land policy, although recognizing fully its influence on the state and economy of New Zealand. Too many factors enter into that problem for it to be viewed meaningfully from the economic angle alone. I have sought to record, often in the words of the participants, the relationship between. government and private enterprise however it appeared in the documents. The early years contributed little, since the colony was young, responsible government even younger. Official energies were largely concentrated on land acquisition and attendant difficulties with the Maoris. Permissory acts for corporations and emergency regulations ware typical manifestations of that relationship before 1870. The first extended contact recorded was that between successive administrations and the Bank of New Zealand, in which the former assumed the same position as a private firm of equal economic importance might have assumed toward its banking agent. Government participation in private enterprise fields began with the program of public works of the 1870’s, which testified to a change in administrative concepts; the central government was no longer the arbiter of the economy, but its leader. It built railroads and imported labor, it encouraged diversification and increase of industry, both primary and secondary, it strove to break the power of English monopolies over the colony. Those who have written about New Zealand's history have tended to consider this development an aberration from British economic thought of the nineteenth century, requiring explanation or defense. Two economists who were in a position to influence the colonists, however, distinguished between government in a developed, “overpopulated” country such as England, and administration of the empty spaces of a new land, providing theoretical justification for an active policy in the latter circumstances. Government construction of public works was no innovation in the Australasian colonies. On the continent, the separate colonies had faced the question of private or state railroads already and generally had settled on the latter. New Zealand's own provinces, not private enterprise, had built the colony's original telegraph lines and railroads as their finances permitted. This history of the shift from provincial enterprise to that of the colony as a whole follows.