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Private or Public? A taxonomy of optimal ownership and management regimes

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  • Stephen King
  • Rohan Pitchford

Abstract

We develop a theory that explains the difference between public and private ownership for the case of firms that are well approximated by an owner\managed or closely held form of firm. The theory is based on government monitoring and control of actions that potentially allow managers to divert value to themselves. More ‘public’ firms are synonymous with greater control of such actions, but generate greater bureaucracy costs. Therefore managers of public firms face flatter commercial incentives than managers of private firms. Flat incentives can be socially desirable when commercially productive activities generate large social harms relative to profit, but are undesirable when these activities are either benign or create external social benefits. The model we develop is flexible and has wide practical application. We provide a mapping between the qualitative characteristics of an asset, its main use – including public goods characteristics, and spillovers to other assets values – and the optimal ownership and management regime. The model is applied to single and multiple related assets. We address questions such as; when is it optimal to have one of a pair of related assets public and the other private; when is joint management desirable; and when should a public asset be managed by the owner of a related private asset? We show that while private ownership can be judged optimal in some cases solely on the basis of qualitative information, the optimality of any other ownership and management regimes relies on quantitative analysis. Application to emergency services, toxic waste disposal, retail product innovation, and vertical production chains (such as airports and water provision) are discussed.

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File URL: https://crawford.anu.edu.au/degrees/idec/working_papers/IDEC01-5.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by International and Development Economics in its series International and Development Economics Working Papers with number idec01-5.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:idc:wpaper:idec01-5

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  1. Oliver Hart & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 1996. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1778, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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  3. David De Meza & Ben Lockwood, 1998. "Does Asset Ownership Always Motivate Managers? Outside Options And The Property Rights Theory Of The Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 361-386, May.
  4. Pitchford, R. & King, S., 1998. "Private or Public? A Taxonomy of Optimal Ownership and Management Regimes," Papers 343, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  5. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1997. "Default and Renegotiation: A Dynamic Model of Debt," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series /1997/321, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
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  7. Mark Armstrong & Simon Cowan & John Vickers, 1994. "Regulatory Reform: Economic Analysis and British Experience," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262510790, January.
  8. Suzumura, Kotaro, 1992. "Cooperative and Noncooperative R&D in an Oligopoly with Spillovers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1307-20, December.
  9. Jorde, Thomas M & Teece, David J, 1990. "Innovation and Cooperation: Implications for Competition and Antitrust," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 75-96, Summer.
  10. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1988. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Working papers 495, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. de Bettignies, Jean-Etienne & Ross, Thomas W., 2009. "Public-private partnerships and the privatization of financing: An incomplete contracts approach," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 358-368, May.
  2. JOhn Bennett & Elisabetta Iossa, 2005. "Building and Managing Facilities for Public Services," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 05/137, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  3. Jean-Etienne de Bettignies & Thomas W. Ross, 2004. "The Economics of Public-Private Partnerships," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 30(2), pages 135-154, June.
  4. Elisabetta Iossa & David Martimort, 2008. "The Simple Micro-Economics of Public-Private Partnerships," CEIS Research Paper 139, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 15 Feb 2013.
  5. Pitchford, R. & King, S., 1998. "Private or Public? A Taxonomy of Optimal Ownership and Management Regimes," Papers 343, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  6. Cook, David C. & Fraser, Rob W. & Weinert, Andrew S., 2013. "An Example of How Chemical Regulation is Affecting Biosecurity Policy-Making: Mediterranean Fruit Fly in Western Australia," 2013 Conference (57th), February 5-8, 2013, Sydney, Australia 152142, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
  7. Oliver Hart, 2002. "Incomplete Contracts and Public Ownership: Remarks, and an Application to Public-Private Partnerships," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 02/061, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  8. Cook, David C. & Lonsdale, Mark, 2005. "A strategic protection approach to biosecurity: Policy implications of an ‘immune system’ model for addressing the risks and consequences of invasive species," 2005 Conference (49th), February 9-11, 2005, Coff's Harbour, Australia 139327, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
  9. Elisabetta Iossa & David Martimort, 2012. "Risk allocation and the costs and benefits of public--private partnerships," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(3), pages 442-474, 09.
  10. Lassila, Jukka & Lazutka, Romas & Morkuniene, Audrone & Jensen, Svend E. Hougaard, 2002. "Lithuanian Pension System: Alternatives and Proposals for the Future - A Summary Report by The Phare Study Group," Discussion Papers 713, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.

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