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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser, 2001. "Public Ownership in the American City," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1930, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1930
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    File URL: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/pub/hier/2001/HIER1930.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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. Boycko, Maxim & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1996. "A Theory of Privatisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(435), pages 309-319, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:hrv:faseco:30747197 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Donald F. Vitaliano, 2016. "Cost Efficiency of Urban Transport in an Era of Widespread Corruption: the Case of New York Street Railways," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 44(3), pages 293-302, September.
    5. Glaeser, Edward & Scheinkman, Jose & Shleifer, Andrei, 2003. "The injustice of inequality," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 199-222, January.
    6. repec:hrv:faseco:30747194 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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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