Democracy and regulation: how the public can govern essential services

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Pluto Press, 2003 - Business & Economics - 233 pages
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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 it.

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Contents

An Introduction
1
Residential Prices for Telephone and Electricity
6
Cost of Capital for New Orleans Public Service
17
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

Greg Palast over the past twenty-five years has provided expert advice on regulation to government, labor, consumer and industry organisations in eight nations. As Executive Director of the New York State Legislature's Commission on Science and Technology, he drafted laws regarding public ownership of utilities, including de-privatising the Long Island electricity company. He founded the Labor Coalition on Public Utilities. He is a journalist who won the 1997 Financial Times David Thomas Prize for business journalism. His book of journalism for Pluto Press, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, was published in April 2002.
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 industry.