Regulating and Deregulating the Public Utilities 1830-2010
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History can provide invaluable insights into important issues of the economic and social regulation of utilities, and offer lessons towards future debates. But the history of utility regulation – which speaks of changing, diverse and complex experiences around the world – was, unfortunately, sidelined or marginalised when economists and policymakers enthusiastically embraced the question of how to reform the utilities from the 1970s. This paper provides an overview of the three, overarching, `waves' of utility regulation from the nineteenth century to the present, documenting how, when and why the ways in which the roles of the state, the market and firms altered over time. It then contextualises and explains the main contributions of each of the papers included in this special issue of Business History, which cover energy, communications, water, transportation and other urban infrastructure regulation, across Western Europe, the United States and Australia.
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