Bringing Citizens Back In: Renewing Public Service Regulation
This essay concerns the ways in which public services – particularly household services such as communications, energy, water and transportation – have been regulated and deregulated, and analyses what consequences this has for users and citizens. Much of the deregulation of public services from the 1980s – liberalization, privatization and New Public Management – was justified by claims that reform would provide users with more choice, whilst they would receive cheaper and better quality services. Little account was taken of the fact that users are highly heterogeneous, that socio-economic differences might be important in determining their consumption of public services, and that this may not lead to socially optimum outcomes. By examining consumption patterns in two large European countries, Spain and the UK, through an analysis of revealed and declared preferences, this paper sheds light on how socio-economic differences among households help determine public service consumption. The main findings are that the supposed benefits of public service deregulation are not evenly spread across populations, and that specifically targeted “bottom-up” regulation from the demand-side could usefully address these issues, thus improving social welfare.
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9420, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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