"Deregulation": What Does That Mean Again?

Week 3 of the course I am currently teaching, Monopolies and the Nation's Infrastructure:  The Regulation of Public Utility Performance, addresses the process of converting historically monopolistic industries into competitive markets.  It's a subject prone to masking ideology or self-interest with imprecise language.  Exhibit A in the display of imprecision is the term "deregulation," a term used to describe anything from elimination of all regulation to reduction of some regulation to introduction of competition accompanied by new regulation. 

Mid-class, I asked the students to take a minute and write a one-sentence definition of "deregulation."  Then I had them pair up to exchange definitions.  "How many of you found that you and your partner had consistent definitions?"  Only two of 13 hands went up.  The point got across:  Best to avoid language whose meaning is known only by you.  Same goes for "restructuring" (which could mean "divest generation," "introduce retail competition," "merge with a distant entity," "join a regional transmission organization"), and "reform" (see any of the above).

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