Non-market Allocation in Transport: A Reassessment of its Justification and the Challenge of Institutional Transition

Economic theory knows two systems of coordination: through public choice or through the market principle. If the market is chosen, then it may either be regulated, or it may be fully competitive (or be in between these two extremes). This paper first inquires into the reasons for regulation, it analyses the reasons for the important role of government in the transportation sector, especially in the procurement of infrastructure. Historical reasons are seen as important reasons for bureaucratic objections to deregulation. Fundamental economic concepts are forwarded that suggest market failure and justify a regulatory environment. The reasons for regulation cited above, however, may be challenged; we forward theoretical concepts from industrial organization theory and from institutional economics which suggest that competition is even possible on the level of infrastructure. The transition from a strongly regulated to a competitive environment poses problems that have given lieu to numerous failures in privatization and deregulation. Structural inertia plays an important role, and the incentive-compatible management of infrastructure is seen as the key element of any liberal transportation policy. It requires that the setting of rules on the meta level satisfies both local and global efficiency ends. We conclude that, in market economies, competition and regulation should not be substitutes but complements. General rules, an "ethic of competition" have to be set that guarantee a level playing field to agents; it is complimented by institutions that provide arbitration in case of misconduct.

01. August 2005

Authors Ulrich Blum

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