Private provision of public goods and political survival: Rail transport in four European democracies in the 20th century

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Pfaff, Katharina & Alejandro Quiro Flores (2021) Private provision of public goods and political survival: Rail transport in four European democracies in the 20th century, Research in Transportation Economics.

The provision of public goods plays a key role in the survival of leaders in democracies. Assuming that mass rail transport shares many of the characteristics of public goods, we claim that the public provision of railway services is more beneficial for political leaders in democracies than private provision. To estimate the effect of the type of provision of railway services on leader survival, we use new data on four European democracies that present variation in the public and private ownership of rail miles between 1913 and 1981. We find that the private provision of rail transport increases the hazard rates of leader deposition in these democracies. These results bear crucial implications, as they help to explain the sweeping policies of nationalization of public services that took place in the first half of the 20th Century in Western Europe.

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