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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The First Want of Society

The First Want of Society.

What is the first want of society? Food, says someone. Well, it is quite true that none can live without food; bu how is that food to be obtained? It can only be produced by the application of labour to land. And in order to apply that labour, what is the first thing wanted? Is it not a road in order to allow labour to approach and get on to the land? Therefore a road is the first want of society.

In its earliest stages a foot track had to suffice, then as people multiplied and wants increased, the foot track became a bridle track, then a road for wheeled vehicles, then a railway, and as every improvement in the road takes place, the prosperity of the district increases. I therefore argue that the prosperity of any community will be in exact proportion to its transit facilities.

If I am correct in stating that the first want of society is a road, then it follows that the transit question underlies every other social question, and that our social conditions generally page 18 cannot be set right until this transit question is permanently placed on a proper footing.

The difference between common roads and railways consists in this: on the common roads the users provide their own means of locomotion. On the railroads, owing to the nature of their construction, the owners must do this. But so far as making money is concerned, there is no logical reason why money should not be made out of the common roads, as well as out of the railways. Indeed, seeing that, as compared with railways, they are mere by-ways, it is probable that it would inflict a less injury on the community. Did, however, a Government ever exist that would dare to do such a thing?