March 1, 2011

The History of the French Railroad Industry in the Nineteenth Century

Guy Numa has published On the Origins of Vertical Unbundling: The Case of the French Transportation Industry in the 19th Century in volume 20 of the European Journal of the History of Economic Thought (2013). Here is the abstract.

The paper retraces the origins of the unbundling of infrastructure, which is a monopoly, from services, which are subject to competition. Using the case of the railroad industry in France, I examine how both natural monopoly theorists and legislation dealt with this subject in the 19th century. I argue that the origins of vertical unbundling date to this period with legislation pertaining to inland waterways and railroads. This was particularly the case for the railroad industry due to pricing and competition rationales. I analyze the writings of Dupuit and Walras and show that they both agreed that infrastructure and services had to be unbundled for the inland waterways. In contrast, they expressed different justifications to defend the monopoly for the railroad industry. Following a chronological progression, the first section explores the origins of unbundling in legislation. The second section analyzes how theorists approached the way railroads had to be managed. Throughout, I highlight the interplay between their work and legislation.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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