Most economic systems in the Western world are mixtures of public and private enterprise. In the United Kingdom there is no clear dividing-line between the two spheres, and one should beware of the over-simplifications of the committed ideologues on either side. For many centuries the State has intervened in the economic life of the nation. One era has differed from another only in the degree to which this has taken place. The Industrial Revolution forced successive governments to introduce measures like the Factory, Public Health, Mines and Trade Union Acts to mitigate the harsh social consequences of uncontrolled capitalism. The development of railways and water, gas and electricity supplies obliged Parliament in the second half of the nineteenth century to pass many Acts dealing with the operation of these ‘natural’ monopolies, including such matters as public safety, quality of service, prices and charges and submission of returns to government departments.
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