Nineteenth century London water supply: Processes of innovation and improvement

Nineteenth century London water supply: Processes of innovation and improvement Public health concerns played a major role in driving the shift from private to government ownership of water works in Britain and the US. Poor water quality is one of the criticisms made of the eight water companies providing piped water to London during the nineteenth century. Critics argued that monopolistic water companies failed to invest in filtration, move their intake, increase capacity or expand their network until compelled to do so by regulation. Critics have taken a static view: looking at water and sanitation in London at a moment in time and identifying actions that the water companies could take that could improve water quality and, consequently, public health. Taking an Austrian process approach, however, shows that companies were continually investing to increase access to piped water and to improve water quality during a time of severe uncertainty and knowledge problems. Water companies often acted before the government to improve quality: early competition encouraged investment and innovation, while later government regulation followed entrepreneurs’ leads and imposed on all water companies improvements already implemented by some. Government decisions were responsible for much of the deterioration in water quality. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Review of Austrian Economics Springer Journals

Nineteenth century London water supply: Processes of innovation and improvement

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Publisher
Springer US
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 by Springer Science+Business Media, LLC
Subject
Economics / Management Science; Public Finance & Economics; Political Science, general; Methodology and the History of Economic Thought
ISSN
0889-3047
eISSN
1573-7128
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11138-012-0182-8
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Public health concerns played a major role in driving the shift from private to government ownership of water works in Britain and the US. Poor water quality is one of the criticisms made of the eight water companies providing piped water to London during the nineteenth century. Critics argued that monopolistic water companies failed to invest in filtration, move their intake, increase capacity or expand their network until compelled to do so by regulation. Critics have taken a static view: looking at water and sanitation in London at a moment in time and identifying actions that the water companies could take that could improve water quality and, consequently, public health. Taking an Austrian process approach, however, shows that companies were continually investing to increase access to piped water and to improve water quality during a time of severe uncertainty and knowledge problems. Water companies often acted before the government to improve quality: early competition encouraged investment and innovation, while later government regulation followed entrepreneurs’ leads and imposed on all water companies improvements already implemented by some. Government decisions were responsible for much of the deterioration in water quality.

Journal

The Review of Austrian EconomicsSpringer Journals

Published: Jul 22, 2012

References

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