Democracy and Regulation

Democracy and Regulation : How the Public Can Govern Essential Services

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Essential services are being privatised the world over. Whether it's water, gas, electricity or the phone network, everywhere from Sao Paulo in Brazil to Leeds in the UK is following the US economic model and handing public services over to private companies whose principal interest is raising prices. Yet it's one of the world's best kept secrets that Americans pay astonishingly little for high quality public services. Uniquely in the world, every aspect of US regulation is wide open to the public. How is this done and why has this process not taken root elsewhere? How is regulation threatened even in the US? And what power does the public have to ensure that services are regulated along these US lines? This book, based on work for the United Nations International Labour Organisation and written by experts with unrivalled practical experience in utility regulation, is the first step-by-step guide to the way that public services are regulated in the United States. It explains how decisions are made by public debate in a public forum. Profits and investments of private companies are capped, and companies are forced to reduce prices for the poor, fund environmental investments and open themselves to financial inspection. In a world where privatisation has so often led to economic disaster -- in Peru, telephone charges increased by 3000%; in Rio de Janeiro, 40% of electricity workers lost their jobs; in Britain water prices rose by 58% -- this book is essential reading. Palast, Oppenheim and MacGregor examine what's right with the traditional American system, why regulation elsewhere has failed, and -- most importantly -- what can be done to fix more

Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 152 x 230 x 20mm | 557.93g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 24 figures / 4 tables
  • 0745319432
  • 9780745319438

Review quote

"This volume discusses governmental regulation of public utilities--firms supplying electricity, gas, telephones, and water. Regulation works best, the authors argue, when regulators adhere to the democratic process: public access to information, public participation in setting prices. The US democratic process is generally superior to that elsewhere, e.g., in South Africa, India, Peru, the UK, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, and other countries. The authors (an economist-reporter, a lawyer, and a regulator) have a wealth of experience in utility regulation, and it is evident on every page. The recent electricity crisis in California (and Enron's participation) receives considerable attention. Throughout the book the democratic process receives most of the credit or blame. Unfortunately, the economic analysis is either weak or incomplete (e.g., no mention of the contribution to the California electricity crisis of either the drought in the Pacific Northwest or the prohibition of forward contracts). The authors' detailed description of the US utility regulatory system will be especially useful to those new to the topic. A companion source of information to this book is a Web site containing updates and additional documentation. Summing Up: Recommended. Public and undergraduate library collections." -- R. A. Miller, Wesleyan University in CHOICEshow more

About Greg Palast

Greg Palast is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation,, and numerous other US, British, and international newspapers, magazines, and online publications. He writes the "Inside Corporate America" column for The Observer and is joining BBC-TV's premier news broadcast, Newsnight, as special investigations reporter. He is the winner of the prestigious Financial Times David Thomas Prize, in 1997 and the Industrial Society Investigative Story of the Year, in 1998. He has also been nominated by the UK Press Association as Business Writer of the Year in 1999. In 2000, selected his report on the US elections as politics story of the year. He has been the subject of several documentaries, an NPR profile, and an upcoming "60 Minutes" feature. Jerrold Oppenheim has represented Attorneys General, consumers, low-income consumers, labor unions, environmentalists, and industry before utility regulatory commissions and other forums for more than 30 years. His precedent-setting cases include denial of utility plant siting and investment, setting service quality requirements, and abolition of discriminatory pricing, credit and marketing practices. He has lectured and published internationally, including monographs for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) and the National Council on Competition and the Electric Industry. Theo MacGregor was, until 1998, director of the Electric Power Division of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy, the state's utility regulator. She helped develop the rules and regulations by which electricity utilities operate in the market. She now runs MacGregor Energy Consultancy and provides expert analysis to state governments and other organisations about the electric more

Table of contents

Democracy and Regulation: Introduction 1. Secrecy, Democracy And Regulation 2. Regulating In Public 3. Competition As Substitute For Regulation? Britain To California 4. Re-Regulation Is Not Deregulation 5. The Open Regulatory Process 6. Social Pricing 7. Issues That Are Publicly Decided 8. An Alternative: Democratic Negotiations 9. Be There: A Guide To Public Participation 10. A History Of Democratic Utility Regulation In The US 11. Regulating The Multinational Utility 12. Failed Experiments In The UK And The US 13. The Biggest Failures: California And Enron 14. International Democracy - Developing And Developed Countries 15. Conclusion Notes Indexshow more

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8 ratings
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