The number of functions which governments undertake for the common good increases as civilization advances. In some cases transition from giving a service on the commercial basis to that of the common benefit has been rapid; in others it has been slower, while others are still in the process of change.

The maintenance of public schools and highways is no longer considered, in this country, in any other light than for the common benefit. It was not so long ago, however, that neither of these services was supplied to any extent except by individuals. Anecdotes relating to the pay of the public school teacher by the patrons of the district are common. Investigation of the early laws of our states will show that numerous charters were granted to turnpike and highway companies, with the permission to erect tollgates. When the state began to give these services individual payments were still required for education, while tollgates were kept on the roads. The charges were quickly given up in the case of public schools, and more slowly in the case of highways, until the expenses of both are now met from the common fund. The postal system has changed, in many cases, from the basis of profit to the basis of service, and any deficit is made up from the common fund. It is unlikely, of course, that this service will ever be treated as purely for the common benefit.

Many municipal services are following the same trend. Such are the supplying of water, gas, and electricity, where they are furnished by the municipality. While the expenditure for the common benefit at present holds by far the most important place, its importance will no doubt be still more marked in the future.

Additional Reading

Census reports:

Financial Statistics of Cities. Financial Statistics of States. Wealthy Debt, and Taxation. Statistical Abstract of the United States. Edward B. Rosa, " Expenditures and Revenues of the Federal Government," The Annals of the American Acad-emy of Political and Social Science, vol. xcv, pp. 1-113.