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Privatizing The Privatized


  • Aaron Tornell


In the first part of this paper we argue that three reforms must be implemented if privatization is to increase efficiency. First, establishing unitary control rights within the firm. Second, making privatized firms face hard budget constraints. Third, establishing a non-corruptible judicial system and transparent bankruptcy procedures. The question arises as to what course of action should be undertaken when these reforms have not been undertaken and privatizers have only a small window of opportunity? Either they privatize hastily today, or not at all. Should they go ahead with privatization and hope that the newly privatized firms will create the demand for good laws? In the case of behemoths, the answer is not clear cut. Privatization without prior implementation of the three reforms mentioned above will simply replace government bureaucrats with private mafias (i.e., private groups with the power to extract fiscal transfers). These private mafias might behave more voraciously than the bureaucrats they are replacing, reducing aggregate efficiency and further hindering the growth of the competitive private sector. In the second part we address the more traditional issues of auction design and of restructuring and regulation of monopolies with network externalities.
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Suggested Citation

  • Aaron Tornell, 1999. "Privatizing The Privatized," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1869, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1869

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul R. Milgrom, 1985. "Auction Theory," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 779, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    2. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
    3. Megginson, William L & Nash, Robert C & van Randenborgh, Matthias, 1994. " The Financial and Operating Performance of Newly Privatized Firms: An International Empirical Analysis," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(2), pages 403-452, June.
    4. Philip R. Lane & Aaron Tornell, 1997. "Voracity and Growth," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1807, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    5. Noll, Roger G., 1989. "Economic perspectives on the politics of regulation," Handbook of Industrial Organization,in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1253-1287 Elsevier.
    6. Florencio López-de-Silanes, 1997. "Determinants of Privatization Prices," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 965-1025.
    7. Barberis, Nicholas & Maxim Boycko & Andrei Shleifer & Natalia Tsukanova, 1996. "How Does Privatization Work? Evidence from the Russian Shops," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(4), pages 764-790, August.
    8. Rafael La Porta & Florencio López-de-Silanes, 1999. "The Benefits of Privatization: Evidence from Mexico," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1193-1242.
    9. Hanson, Gordon H., 1994. "Antitrust in post-privatization Latin America: An analysis of the Mexican airlines industry," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(Supplemen), pages 199-216.
    10. David M. Newbery, 2002. "Privatization, Restructuring, and Regulation of Network Utilities," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262640481, July.
    11. Kornai, Janos, 1992. "The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198287766, June.
    12. Vining, Aidan R & Boardman, Anthony E, 1992. "Ownership versus Competition: Efficiency in Public Enterprise," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 73(2), pages 205-239, March.
    13. Aaron Tornell, 1997. "Rational Atrophy: The U.S. Steel Industry," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1806, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    14. John McMillan, 1994. "Selling Spectrum Rights," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 145-162, Summer.
    15. Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1994. "Politicians and Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 995-1025.
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    Cited by:

    1. Vahabi, Mehrdad, 2003. "La contrainte budgétaire lâche et la théorie économique
      [Soft Budget Constraint and Economic Theory]
      ," MPRA Paper 17651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Rodolfo Apreda, 2004. "Corporate Rent-Seeking and the managerial soft-budget constraint," CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. 283, Universidad del CEMA.
    3. J. Kornai & E. Maskin & G. Roland., 2004. "Understanding the Soft Budget Constraint," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 12.
    4. Sybil Rhodes, 2012. "Political communication and economic reform: the use of consumerist frames in Brazil, 1985-2005," CEMA Working Papers: Serie Documentos de Trabajo. 482, Universidad del CEMA.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government


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