Is Economic Regulation Possible? Arrow's Impossibility Theorem and the Management of Joint Use Infrastructure
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Economic regulation is portrayed as the objective application of clear economic theory to data in order to develop outcomes which overcome the problems associated with natural monopoly in a non-political, unbiased fashion. However, is the appearance of objectivity only skin-deep? This paper argues that it is; that economic regulation is a form of social choice and that the need for subjective assumptions underpinning regulatory forecasts renders this social choice subject to Arrow?s (1950) Impossibility Theorem. The same is true of any public-sector resource allocation process. The paper examines the consequences of this result for economic regulation using railways as a case study, and charts some potential policy options in response.
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