IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Public versus private ownership : the current state of the debate

Listed author(s):
  • Shirley, Mary
  • Walsh, Patrick

At the heart of the debate about public versus private ownership lie three questions: 1) Does competition matter more than ownership? 2) Are state enterprises more subject to welfare-reducing interventions by government than private firms are? 3) Do state enterprises suffer more from governance problems than private firms do? Even if the answers to these questions favor private ownership, the question must still be asked: Do distortions in the process of privatization mean that privatized firms perform worse than state enterprises? The author's review found greater ambiguity about the merits of privatization and private ownership in the theoretical literature than in the empirical literature. In most cases, empirical research strongly favors private ownership in competitive markets over a state-owned counterfactual (although construction of the counterfactual is itself a problem). Theory's ambiguity about ownership in monopoly markets seems better justified. Since the choice confronting governments is between state ownership and privatization rather than between privatization and optimality, theory has left a gap that empirical work has tried to fill. Further research is needed.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2420.

in new window

Date of creation: 31 Aug 2000
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2420
Contact details of provider: Postal:
1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433

Phone: (202) 477-1234
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2420. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.