Democracy and Regulation: How the Public Can Govern Essential Services
by Greg Palast, Theo MacGregor, Jerrold Oppenheim
ISBN 0745319424 (0-7453-1942-4)
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Softcover, Pluto Press, 2003
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Book summary: 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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