Symposium at the GHI, Washington, DC
April 28–30, 2011
Conveners: Hartmut Berghoff (GHI, Washington D.C.), William J. Hausman (College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA), Günther Schulz (University of Bonn)
Call for Papers
Currently, the terms regulation and deregulation are on everyone's lips; however, those using them frequently forget that regulation, in its strict sense, is a mechanism either to restrain competition or to induce competition where there is none or too little. Natural monopolies are the most prominent targets of regulation, because efficient competition cannot emerge by itself in such cases. For historical reasons, opinions on what regulation entails have varied greatly. By the end of the nineteenth century, it was apparent in both the U.S. and Germany that natural monopolies such as water utilities and railways needed to be regulated in order to overcome market failure. Attempts to solve the problem ranged between two extremes. On the one hand, there was government regulation of private companies in the U.S., and, on the other hand, there was government provision or nationalization of companies in Germany and most of Continental Europe. Existing research suggests that political reasons lay behind this divergence.
Regulation can generally be seen as the outcome of a bargaining process between stakeholders, namely, enterprises, the scientific community, as well as local and federal governments. While this approach to regulation has been studied for several sectors, there has been no systematic analysis of whether this political embrace of the concept of regulation (for instance, the steering of markets in the natural monopoly case) has really influenced legislative processes and what it has meant for the efficiency of markets.
Situated at the intersection of legal and economic history, the symposium will focus on the regulation of natural monopolies in network industries such as railways, energy, or telecommunications. On one hand, it will analyze constitutional and legal frameworks, and, on the other hand, it will investigate the development of markets and the political influence exerted by market participants. Of particular interest are the formative periods of 1870–80 and 1930–35, when major decisions were made about which regulatory path to take. The period from 1945 until the 1980s will also be examined, because it was then that the deregulation discussion took firm hold in the United States, and the American concept of regulation was replicated in Germany and the European Economic Community. Naturally, all of these historical moments lead to broader questions about regulation in its cultural-historical context, including the general principles underlying public regulatory policy in law, economics, and society—as well as existing path dependencies. Hence, the symposium will also serve as a transnational and intercultural dialogue about the different characteristics and cultural interpretations of markets and market economies as well as their roles in society.
Paper proposals (two pages maximum) are welcome from both young and established scholars from different disciplines, especially economics, economic history, business history, and legal history. Proposals should include an abstract of the paper (20–25 minutes) and a curriculum vitae in English. The proposals should be submitted via email (preferably in pdf format) by October 15, 2010 to Cathrin Kronenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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