Public versus Private Ownership and Regulation of Electric Utilities


The prevailing economic philosophy at the turn of the century in the U.S. emphasized private ownership and laissez-faire competition. Intervention in the sometimes-freewheeling market process, much less outright public ownership, was regarded by most policymakers and economists as anathema. Yet the Progressive movement and a minority of the economics profession at the time argued that “natural monopolies” made competition unworkable and that “such enterprises must be regulated by the State or they must be owned by the State.”1 Of these alternatives, many viewed regulation as costly, ineffective, and frequently corrupt and instead advocated public provision of water distribution, natural gas, street railways, and electric power services.


Private Ownership Public Firm Electric Utility Public System Public Ownership 
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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

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