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Public Ownership in the American City

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  • Edward L. Glaeser

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 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8613.

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Date of creation: Dec 2001
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Publication status: published as Schwartz, A.E. (ed.) Urban Issues and Public Finance: Essays in Honor of Dick Netzer. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing Inc., 2004.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8613

Note: EFG LE PE
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  1. Boycko, Maxim & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1996. "A Theory of Privatisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(435), pages 309-19, March.
  2. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "The Rise of the Regulatory State," NBER Working Papers 8650, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "The Rise of the Regulatory State," NBER Working Papers 8650, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "The Injustice of Inequality," NBER Working Papers 9150, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Cletus C. Coughlin & Jeffrey P. Cohen & Sarosh R. Khan, 2002. "Aviation security and terrorism: a review of the economic issues," Working Papers 2002-009, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser & Claudia Goldin, 2004. "Corruption and Reform: An Introduction," NBER Working Papers 10775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Germa Bel & Anton Costas, 2004. "Do public sector reforms get rusty? An empirical analysis on privatization of solid waste collection," Public Economics 0409014, EconWPA.

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