Jules Dupuit and the railroads: what is the role of the State?
In the nineteenth century, the emergence of railroads in France resulted in new analytical issues, as they are natural monopolies. Jules Dupuit examined the issue of the operations of the railroad sector on several occasions (1853, 1861 and 1862). He would seem to have defended two contrasting positions, opening the way for debate among commentators. In this communication, I attempt to restore the consistency of Dupuit's positions on the railroads. In the first section, I distinguish between competition as an ideal and the feasibility of competition in the railroad sector; this distinction is implicit in Dupuit's work, but it helps us to grasp that, in his opinion, unlimited competition is not possible in the railroads and that it is not necessarily beneficial to the welfare of society. The State should therefore regulate the railroad sector either by State management or through concessions. In the second section, I specify the conditions under which he believed the State should manage the railroads sector instead of offering concessions to private companies.
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- Ekelund, Robert B, Jr & Shieh, Yeung Nan, 1986. "Dupuit, Spatial Economics and Optimal Resource Allocation: A French Tradition," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 53(212), pages 483-96, November.
- Ekelund, Robert B, Jr, 1970. "Price Discrimination and Product Differentiation in Economic Theory: An Early Analysis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 268-78, May.
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