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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

294
monopoly, which a papyrus has preserved. The whole process is
minutely supervised from beginning to end. The government
determined the acreage to be sown with the plants whence oil
was extracted, and through its officials furnished the seed and
saw that it was planted. It fixed the price at which the culti-
vator sold the plants to the contractor. Its officials established
factories and provided labour, whose rate of pay and working
hours were determined by royal decree. Finally the govern-
ment fixed the price at which the finished product was retailed
to the public. It is clear that the farming system was not adopted
to save the government trouble; its officials did the greater part
of the work themselves and supervised the contractor's share at
every stage. Yet the contractor was no sleeping partner in the
concern. He had bid, at competitive auction, as high a price
for the profits of the monopoly as he dared, and it was to his
interest to see that the profits should if possible exceed that
price. He could therefore be relied upon to keep a careful watch
on all concerned to see that no unnecessary loss was incurred,
and he was given wide powers of inspection and search to pre-
vent illicit private manufacture by the public and to check
negligence or corruption among the royal officials: he was, for
instance, entitled to damages from any official who failed to
provide seed to the cultivators in proper time. The government
thus secured itself against leakages at a small cost; for the con-
tractor obviously could not make any large speculative profit
in so minutely regulated a concern. The general public were
protected by the publicity given to the prices, and their interests
could in case of need be protected by the officials, who had no
cause to favour the contractor as against their own charges.
No such elaborate scheme of monopolies seems to have been
operated in any other Hellenistic kingdom, and in Egypt itself
it was abandoned by the Romans, who substituted for it licences
on manufacturers. The mixed system of farm and regie is,
however, found elsewhere applied to percentage taxes. It is