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Infrastructure and nation building: The regulation and financing of network transportation infrastructures in Spain (1720--2010)

Germà Bel ()

Business History, 2011, vol. 53, issue 5, 688-705

Abstract: This paper analyses Spanish infrastructure policy since the early 1700s: road building in the eighteenth century, railway creation and expansion in the nineteenth, motorway expansion in the twentieth, and high speed rail development in the twenty-first. The analysis reveals a long-term pattern, in which infrastructure policy in Spain has been driven not by the requirements of commerce and economic activity, but rather by the desire to centralise transportation around the country's political capital. As commerce has been unable to sustain the development of this policy, regulation and subsidies from the national budget have regularly been used to decide the priorities regarding infrastructure creation and to fund the development, maintenance, and operation of the networks. When high roads, bridges, canals, etc. are in this manner made and supported by the commerce which is carried on by means of them, they can be made only where that commerce requires them, and consequently where it is proper to make them. Their expense too, their grandeur and magnificence, must be suited to what that commerce can afford to pay. They must be made consequently as it is proper to make them. A magnificent high road cannot be made through a desert country where there is little or no commerce, or merely because it happens to lead to the country villa of the intendant of the province, or to that of some great lord to whom the intendant finds it convenient to make his court. Adam Smith, The wealth of nations (1776, vol. III.V.I, pp. 95--96)

Date: 2011
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