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PUBLIC SECTOR

The array of organisations consisting of national, regional and local governments, together with agencies and other organisations financed by those levels of government.

Ownership or control brings enterprises within the ambit of this sector. The public utility is a popular type of public enterprise. A suspicion of the exploitative and fraudulent nature of some private sector firms leads to a call for the government to be engaged in commercial activities. In the nineteenth century in Britain many local governments ran utilities, hence the expression ‘gas and water socialism’. The fear that large companies have an undue power in a national economy leads to the call for public control over the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy. If this change of ownership occurs then the list for nationalisation usually includes energy, transport, steel, health care and postal services.