Privatization and Deregulation.

Part of the "Critiques of Libertarianism" site.

Last updated 10/25/07.

Libertarians are generally unabashedly in favor of privatization and deregulation, with only minor limits in the case of minarchists. They would abolish antitrust law. It's not that simple.


The Meaning of Privatization
Paul Starr's 1988 Yale Law and Policy Review article that clarifies the meaning of privatization as an idea, as theory and rhetoric, and as a political practice. Truly an eye-opener, yet very balanced. Readable, and very highly recommended.
Common Property and Regulation of the Environment
The bibliographical database of the Encyclopedia Of Law & Economics
Private And Common Property Rights (PDF)
Part of the Encyclopedia Of Law & Economics
If You Took An Airplane Recently, You Know Deregulation's A Loser
Robert Kuttner describes the recent failures of deregulation in airlines, power, and banking.
Air Piracy
Merrill Goozner's The American Prospect article explains why airline deregulation has been a failure: the promised competition has not materialized over 20 years.
The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs, Chapter 69. Policy issues and recommendations.
A 1972 report detailing pragmatic alternatives to the drug war from a public health point of view, without the ridiculous libertarian demand for total deregulation.
Break the Voting Monopoly! If the election were run like a business, we might be satisfied customers.
Michael Kinsley's Time Magazine article satirizes anti-government arguments.
Electricity Deregulation: The Costs
An Institute For Public Accuracy summary with links from experts independent of the energy industry. Written in 8/00, it correctly presaged the enormous problems in 2001 in California.
Takings: Rhetoric, Not Substance
Professor F. Patrick Hubbard presents the big picture of takings, showing that the issues are not as presented by the takings ideologues.
Lessons Of Chile's Voucher Reform Movement
Professor Martin Camoy of Stanford points out that real voucher reforms have failed to improve test scores, and have widened the gap between privileged and underprivileged. From Rethinking Schools.
Efficiency, Sustainability, and Access Under Alternative Property-Rights Regimes
Elinor Ostrom provides a broad introduction to and overview of the factors that make some managed commons successful and more practical than private property. Essential reading.
Varieties Of Institutional Failure
James Acheson describes failures of resource management by markets, private property, government, and communal management. Libertarian emphasis on the first two only is inappropriate.
The Tradable Permits Approach to Protecting the Commons: What Have We Learned?
Tom Tietenberg provides an overview which shows how despite their market gloss, tradable permits are a sophisticated government program, and privatization in a very limited sense.
Bailing Out Private Jails
Judith Greene's The American Prospect article describes the failures of jail privatization compared to government jails and how they are becoming yet one more corrupt industry feeding at the government trough.
Deregulation Fails All Over Again
Molly Ivins points out the poor historical track record of deregulation.
Greed Is Bad
Paul Krugman's New York Times article details how the current accounting problems of corporations are a product of attempting to motivate executives by their greed. Another illustration of why laissez-faire doesn't work. From The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive.
Power outage traced to dim bulb in White House
Greg Palast, a specialist in corporate corruption turned columnist, details the history of power industry corruption. From WorkingForChange.
An Industry Trapped by a Theory
Robert Kuttner describes why power industry deregulation doesn't work well.
Privatisation and nationalisation in the 21st century (PDF)
John Quiggan's published article on slowing and reversal of the trend to privatization.
The Future of Government: Mixed Economy or Minimal State?
John Quiggin points out that historical experience shows when states perform better than private industry, and thus economies should be mixed.
Liberty! What Fallacies Are Committed in Thy Name!
Cosma Shalizi points out that libertarian-style arguments about eliminating antitrust have severe empirical difficulties: ie. price fixing is rampant in the global marketplace.
Buying Into Failure
Paul Krugman's New York Times article points out that Britain and Chile have attempted similar reforms to Bush's Social Security plans, and they have both failured to live up to their promises. From The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive.
NEW 2/06: Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion?
Dani Rodrik, of Harvard University, points out that the neoliberal prescription of free markets, privatization, and non-interference has been a great failure for developing nations. India and China have done vastly better with their own prescriptions.
NEW 4/06: The Food And Agricultural Global Cartels Of The 1990s: Overview And Update
John Connor at Purdue details roughly 13 billion dollars of customer overcharges due to price fixing in just one industry sector. An excellent argument for the continued importance of antitrust law.
NEW 5/06: Can Developing Countries Afford to Ban or Regulate Child Labor?
Libertarians weep crocodile tears for the poorest at the prospect of regulating child labor. It's even in the party platform. They claim it is a luxury of the rich. Weisbrot et al. point out that developing nations are historically rich enough to afford it.
NEW 2/07: Markets Are Not Magic
Mark Thoma, at Economist's View, explains when markets can perform very badly, and how the belief that "privatization and deregulation are always best" is wrong.

Print References

The links here are to, through their associates program, primarily because of the review information. Books without links are generally out of print, and can often be easily found at AddAll Used and Out Of Print Search. Good sites for bargain shopping for sometimes expensive new books are Online Bookstore Price Comparison and AddAll Book Search and Price Comparison. Both of those list applicable coupons. Another is

A. B. Atkinson "The Economic Consequences of Rolling Back the Welfare State"
MIT Press, 1999. Points out unintended negative side effects of reduction of government.
Nicholas Barr "The Economics of the Welfare State"
Stanford University Press, 1999. A thorough overview of the real world economics of market failures and government interventions. Click here for a review.
Allen Buchanan "Ethics, Efficiency, and the Market"
Rowman & Littlefield, 1985. From the cover: "... contains the most thorough and systematic analysis of economic and moral arguments both for and against the market as an instrument of resource allocation." The chapter, "Moral Arguments For and Against the Market" occupies most of the book.
David Card and Alan B. Krueger "Myth and Measurement: The New Economics Of The Minimum Wage"
Princeton Univ. Press, 1997. Libertarians claim the minimum wage destroys jobs: real-world evidence points the other way.
Charles T. Goodsell "The Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic"
Chatham House, 1994. Reexamines empirical findings on U.S. bureaucratic performance, noting how well the American system really works.
John Gray "Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment"
Routledge 1994. John Gray once held views very close to libertarianism, but in this book he repudiates both neoclassical liberalism and libertarianism. Chapter 3, "The Moral Foundations of Market Institutions" contains some strong criticisms of the libertarian position.
Jane Kelsey "Rolling Back the State: Privatisation of Power in Aotearoa/New Zealand"
Paul & Co Publishing Consortium 1996. And "Economic Fundamentalism: The New Zealand Experiment - A World Model for Structural Adjustment?"
Pluto Press 1996. Two books that detail the unhappy consequences of a real-world libertarian economic experiment.
Robert Kuttner "Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets"
Knopf, 1997. Why mixed economies would outperform pure markets. Essential for countering libertarian economic arguments.
Linda McQuaig "The Cult of Impotence: Selling the Myth of Powerlessness in the Global Economy"
Viking 1998. Why economic globalization and its effects are not inevitable, and why democratic government can and should ameliorate those effects.
Margaret Jane Radin "Contested Commodities: The Trouble with Trade in Sex, Children, Body Parts, and Other Things"
An examination of how non-market values are important to personhood, and how social and economic inequality threaten those values, necessitating regulation.
Donald A. Wittman "The Myth of Democratic Failure: Why Political Institutions Are Efficient"
University of Chicago Press, 1995. "... refutes one of the cornerstone beliefs of economics and political science: that economic markets are more efficient than the processes and institutions of democratic government."

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Copyright 2007 by Mike Huben ( ).
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