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Public Ownership in the American City

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
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    Abstract

    American local governments own and manage a wide portfolio of enterprises, including gas and electricity companies, water systems, subways, bus systems and schools. Existing theories of public ownership, including the presence of natural monopolies, can explain much of the observed municipal ownership. However, the history of America’s cities suggests that support for public ownership came from corruption then associated with private ownership of utilities and public transportation. Private firms that either buy or sell to the government will have a strong incentive to bribe government officials to get lower input prices or higher output prices. Because municipal ownership dulls the incentives of the manager and decreases the firm’s available cash, public firms may lead to less corruption. Public ownership is also predicted to create inefficiency and excessively large government payrolls.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 1930.

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    Date of creation: 2001
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    Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1930

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    1. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "The Rise of the Regulatory State," NBER Working Papers 8650, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Boycko, Maxim & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1996. "A Theory of Privatisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(435), pages 309-19, March.
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    Cited by:
    1. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2003. "The Rise of the Regulatory State," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(2), pages 401-425, June.
    2. Rebecca Menes, 2006. "Limiting the Reach of the Grabbing Hand. Graft and Growth in American Cities, 1880 to 1930," NBER Chapters, in: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, pages 63-94 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ortega de Miguel, Enrique & Sanz Mulas, Andres, 2007. "A public sector multinational company: The case of Canal de Isabel II," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 143-150, June.
    4. Cletus C. Coughlin & Jeffrey P. Cohen & Sarosh R. Khan, 2002. "Aviation security and terrorism: a review of the economic issues," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 9-24.
    5. Germa Bel & Anton Costas, 2004. "Do public sector reforms get rusty? An empirical analysis on privatization of solid waste collection," Public Economics 0409014, EconWPA.
    6. Edward L. Glaeser & Jose Scheinkman & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "The Injustice of Inequality," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1967, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.

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