Prepared for the National Association of Water Companies
Water Utility Executive Council Meeting
March 30, 2004
Winning over environmentalists: Is it possible? You bet it is. And I am living proof.
It took me years to accept the notion that the private sector can help solve our water and wastewater problems. I had always been committed to public solutions. One of the factors behind my move to Canada in the 1980s was my distaste for Ronald Reagan’s policies. I would never have dreamed that a decade later, I would be arguing for water and wastewater utility privatization.
Two things swayed me: first, a growing understanding of the public sector’s miserable performance, and second, a growing appreciation of the private sector’s successes in other jurisdictions. In the mid-1990s, I was doing alot of work on sewage pollution and beach closings. I came across reports of dramatic declines in sewage pollution in England and Wales. Regulators were cracking down on polluters. Utilities were upgrading plants. Long-closed beaches were open for swimming. What on earth was happening? What was happening, it turned out, was privatization, and along with it, the introduction of a tough new regulatory regime.
I soon learned that I wasn’t the only environmentalist impressed with the results of the British water privatization. Surfers Against Sewage – which described itself as Britain’s coolest environmental group – was delighted that some water companies weren’t just meeting standards but exceeding them. And Friends of the Earth was impressed by the water companies’ massive investments, their environmental performance, and the greater openness surrounding these issues.
Meanwhile, the same thing was happening in other fields. Over in the UK, Greenpeace celebrated electricity privatization when it realized that it could spell the demise of nuclear power.
The debates about privatization have become more polarized in recent years. But opportunities to win over environmentalists still exist. Water activists, of course, are driven by many different ideals. But virtually all share a vision of safe drinking water and effective sewage treatment. If you demonstrate that you can achieve these ends, it will be hard for any but those driven by ideology to object to the means.
Madsen Pirie, who has advised many a government on privatization, offers this guidance: “Make friends out of your enemies…. Disarm the opposition.” That’s excellent advice. Let me share with you my thoughts on who your opponents are, how you can befriend some, and how you can disarm others.
A couple of weeks ago, to prepare for this talk, I spent some time browsing the web sites of US environmental and consumer groups. I wanted to learn more about the nature of their opposition to privatization. Is it primarily ideological? Political? Pragmatic? Just what are their concerns about privatization? More important, what would the water industry have to do to allay these concerns?
I have to say that my first few hours on these web sites really surprised me. I found myself thinking, “Concerns? What concerns?” Water utility privatization is simply not a major issue for many of the big national groups. It’s not something they campaign on. It’s not something they write reports about. It’s not featured on their home pages. In some cases, searches of their web sites turned up nothing at all. Privatization doesn’t even seem to be on the radar of some groups. For other groups, it’s an issue, but a peripheral one. It’s the sort of thing that comes up in coalition work – the subject of joint statements, rather than of concerted research efforts.
I suspect that this is going to sound odd to you, since so many of you have felt besieged by environmental groups. So let me spend a few minutes describing what I found.
I’ll start with Greenpeace – the quintessential environmental group. Since Greenpeace has fought the privatization of fisheries and forests, I thought it might have something to say about privately supplied water. But I was wrong. A search for “privatization” turned up nine items – but none concerned water. A search for “drinking water” turned up 20 items – but none concerned privatization. The organization – at least at the national level – has simply stayed away from the water privatization debate.
Many other national groups haven’t exactly stayed away from the debate, but they seem to see it as an issue in the developing world rather than in the US. They don’t present privatization as a domestic issue, and they don’t give it any prominence on their web sites. I’m sure that this distinction is more comforting to those of you who operate only in the US than it is to those of you who operate around the world. In any case, for the purposes of this discussion, it’s a useful distinction to make. The arguments against privatization in the developing world are often very different than the arguments against privatization in the US.
Who are these groups that don’t seem to be particularly worked up about domestic privatization? One example is Friends of the Earth, or FOE (as it’s rather charmingly called). A search of FOE’s web site turned up nine items on the private provision of water. Almost all of these concerned international development. There was material prepared for the Johannesburg Earth Summit, for a World Bank meeting, for a meeting of trade ministers. And there were profiles of the big water companies, again with an emphasis on their activities in the developing world.
So it’s clear that FOE has done some work on water utility privatization. But the issue barely merits a mention on its web site – which is the face that FOE presents to the world at large. Among other projects featured on its site, FOE promotes its International Program, saying that it focusses on trade agreements, international institutions, and corporate accountability. But that program’s web page doesn’t include one word about water utilities.
FOE devotes even less attention to water and sewage in the US. Neither is listed on the main page as a “specific issue area.” The group does have a Community, Health & Environment Program. Since clean water is mentioned in the description of the program, I thought I might find something on privatization there. But the program’s web page doesn’t even mention water utilities, let alone privatization.
I found the same thing on the Environmental Defense web site. Water and wastewater aren’t listed under Campaigns, and they aren’t an option under the feature called Select an Issue. A search for “drinking water” produced 132 results. But a search for “water privatization” turned up just one item – a coalition effort about reforming the World Bank. A search for privatization in general turned up 27 items – all but a handful of them about international aid agencies. The sole mention of water utilities in the United States concerned the private water system in Los Angeles in the late nineteenth century. Once again, domestic water privatization just doesn’t seem to be an issue for this group.
And what about the PIRGS – the Public Interest Research Groups? Although some state PIRGS have opposed privatization, it doesn’t seem to be a central issue for the alliance as a whole. The central State PIRG web site doesn’t highlight water, wastewater, or privatization. Nor does the US PIRG site. The latter’s “Clean Water” section features a piece on the need for a stronger Clean Water Act. It focusses on our right-to-know what’s in our water, and on the importance of law enforcement. It proposes that sewage polluters not be allowed to profit from their wrongdoing. But it targets public polluters too, pointing out that the federal government is itself a major polluter. Most important for our purposes, it doesn’t say anything about who should own or operate water or sewage utilities.
It’s the same story on the Waterkeeper Alliance web site. Waterkeeper groups work on utility issues all the time – especially sewage pollution. One of Waterkeeper’s current campaigns concerns sewage pollution in Milwaukee. But the issue isn’t presented as part of a public/private debate – at least, not on the national web site.
NRDC – the Natural Resources Defense Council – is another organization that is very concerned about water and wastewater. And it’s another that doesn’t frame the debate in terms of public or private provision. Last June, NRDC released a report on drinking water called “What’s on Tap?” It studied the systems in 19 US cities and highlighted three issues: water quality and compliance; right-to-know reports; and source water protection. The report didn’t entirely ignore privatization – it mentioned the growth of privatization in the US, and Atlanta’s failed experience, and the controversy over contracting out in New Orleans. But these issues got just a few paragraphs in the 226-page report. And they were actually pretty even-handed, or non-judgmental, if you will.
In February, NRDC also released a report on sewage pollution called “Swimming in Sewage.” The public/private debate was not at all prominent in the report. The report was critical of sewage treatment bypasses in Milwaukee. But the issue was definitely sewage – not privatization.
NRDC is on the steering committee of a big alliance called the Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water. Also on the steering committee is the Consumer Federation of America, or the CFA. They’re yet another organization that seems reluctant to join the anti-water-privatization fray. The CFA has been very critical of electricity privatization. But it hasn’t done the same kind of work on water. The issue doesn’t show up anywhere on its web page – not under Utilities and not under Drinking Water Safety.
What’s become clear to me is that there’s no consensus among environmentalists or consumer groups on water utility privatization in the United States. Many of the largest, best organized, best funded national organizations have not committed themselves to any position on the issue. When you face opposition to your domestic projects, you’re not up against a monolith known as the environmental movement or a single, united consumer movement.
That’s the good news. You already know the bad news: You certainly have no shortage of opponents! Who are they? Do you share any common ground with them? Can they be won over?
Some of your opponents, I’d argue, aren’t really committed opponents at all. They’re opposed not to privatization per se but to privatization that is approached in the wrong way. They’re concerned, in other words, about the privatization process rather than the outcome.
I think that the Pacific Institute belongs in this category. This morning, we heard a presentation about the controversy in Stockton, California. The Pacific Institute called the Superior Court ruling that voided Stockton’s privatization contract “a victory for democracy.” It had earlier written to the city, urging it to slow down the privatization process. The author of that letter, Gary Wolff, was adamant that his organization does not oppose privatization. He insisted, “neither the Institute nor I are for or against privatization.” What they were opposed to, he explained, was a bad decision-making process.
I must confess that the Pacific Institute confuses me a bit. It purports to take a balanced approach to privatization – to consider both the risks and the benefits. But I get the impression that the group is still working from many of the assumptions of the anti-privatization camp. To me, its language – its presentation, if you will – often suggests a bias.
Two years ago, the institute put out a report called The New Economy of Water. I thought that for all of its claims to balance, it definitely favoured public water. Let me give you a couple of examples. The first concerned the price of water services. The authors of the report noted that some argue that privatization can reduce water prices, while others fear that it will lead to higher costs. The authors concluded, “The actual record is mixed – both results have occurred.” Well, if that’s the case, why did they sum up this section with the headline, “Privatization Can Worsen Economic Inequities and the Affordability of Water”? Why didn’t they write, “Privatization can Reduce Economic Inequities and Make Water More Affordable”?
Another example concerns water quality. The authors wrote, “When strong regulatory oversight exists, privatization can lead to improvements in water quality.” But what was their headline for that section? “Privatization Agreements May Lessen Protection of Water Quality.”
So it seems to me that there was some bias in that report. Be that as it may, it did not come out against privatization. This is how the authors summed up their position: “We do not argue here that privatization efforts must stop. We do, however, argue that all privatization agreements should meet certain standards and incorporate specific principles.”
And what standards would those be? The institute called on water suppliers to meet basic human needs and to protect ecosystems. It argued for sound economics – such as subsidies that don’t encourage inefficient water use. It stressed the need for effective government oversight – both economic and environmental. It called for unambiguous, enforceable contracts that spell out each party’s responsibilities and that include dispute resolution procedures. And it called for transparent processes that involve all stakeholders.
I think that most of these guidelines for privatization are, in fact, quite sensible. I certainly hope that they’re guidelines that you also favour. If that’s true, then these are people that you should be able to work with.
Regrettably, I can’t say the same for all of privatization’s opponents. Certainly many environmental and consumer groups are broadly and vigorously opposed to privatization. The most prominent of these is Public Citizen, the group that Ralph Nader founded. As you know, it is a fierce opponent of privatization – it’s passionately committed to publicly provided water.
Another national group that is increasingly concerned about privatization is the Sierra Club. We heard this morning about its role in Stockton. Privatization is a fairly new issue for the national club, and it’s still almost invisible on its web site. So far, most of the club’s anti-privatization work has been done by local chapters. But look out – the new national president has said that the club will probably be more engaged in water privatization in the future.
Privatization’s opponents also include hundreds of smaller, local groups – sometimes local affiliates of national groups, such as state PIRGS, and sometimes independent organizations. Although these groups may be small – and in some cases, hitherto completely unknown – they can be extremely effective in getting their message out.
What I’d like to do now is go over the major concerns of these various opponents of privatization, and talk about some of the ways that you can address these concerns. I think it’s useful to divide these concerns into several categories. First, there are those that apply to the developing world and those that apply here in North America. And second, there are those that are based on ideology, and those that are more pragmatic – I’d say, more legitimate.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the arguments against privatization in the developing world. The challenges facing water providers there are mind-boggling. The huge number of people without access to clean water or sewage treatment … The extreme poverty of many users … The deeply rooted corruption … The dearth of public institutions that can oversee the privatization process, or regulate a privatized utility … Financial crises and currency devaluations that can undermine privatization once it does occur … Many of these problems are without parallel in the US. As a result, some of the debates that they’ve inspired really don’t have much resonance here.
That said, there’s a good deal of overlap in the concerns. Campaigners against both international and domestic privatization raise many of the same issues.
Some of these are primarily ideological. They concern water’s relationship to the economic world. Water, privatization’s foes insist, should not be treated as an economic good. People have a basic right – a human right – to water. It’s wrong to require them to pay for it. In the same vein, privatization’s opponents insist that water treatment should not be tainted by the profit motive. Corporations, they say, are devoted to their own bottom line, rather than to the public interest. In Public Citizen’s words, “a profit-driven corporate agenda [is] fundamentally incompatible with delivering an essential service.”
Labour issues also tend to get lost in an ideological haze. Privatization’s opponents frequently object to staff reductions – even those that a union has consented to. Public Citizen is critical of labour relations in Buenos Aires. Apparently Aguas Argentinas crushed – that’s a quote – union resistance to the deal. How did it do so? It gave workers 10 percent ownership in the company! (With enemies like that, I wonder, who needs friends?)
Another debate that tends to be more ideological than analytical concerns international trade agreements. Critics maintain that water utilities should not enjoy the protections of trade agreements. It’s wrong, they believe, for investors to sue governments that expropriate their interests.
When I spoke in October, I addressed some of these ideological objections. If you missed my talk, and want to take a look at it, it’s posted on the web. (In fact, you can find it on both the NAWC site and the Environment Probe site.) In that talk, I mentioned a range of responses. But I also suggested that you steer away from these issues – that you redirect the debate away from feelings and back to facts. Don’t waste your time trying to persuade a socialist to harness the profit motive. Don’t spend your limited energy arguing over whether “multinational” is a dirty word. Stay focussed on privatization.
That brings me to your opponents’ other concerns – the pragmatic ones. These are concerns that go beyond any political agenda. They’re not about ideology. They’re about water and wastewater systems. They’re about fair and transparent processes. They’re about regulation. They’re about performance. By and large, they’re legitimate concerns. And I think that you ignore them at your peril.
Many common concerns are about the privatization process itself. Is it fair, open, and transparent? Are all stakeholders involved? Are contracts and other information open to public scrutiny? Issues related to public knowledge and participation are critical to many groups. Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, and the Pacific Institute all call for freer flows of information and greater public involvement. This one’s not negotiable. You may as well embrace the concept, because you’ll be coming up against it time and again. You may have to take projects through environmental impact assessments. You may face ballot initiatives. Or you may simply encounter citizens groups that are concerned about their water supply. You’re going to have to think of these as opportunities to inform the public, and to bring people onside.
One advantage to more open processes is that they’ll reduce opportunities for corruption. Several groups are concerned about this issue. Friends of the Earth charges that “bribery has been endemic to the industry.” Its examples don’t come from the US. It cites concerns about Enron in Ghana, Suez in Lesotho and France, and Vivendi in Italy and France. Public Citizen brings the issue closer to home with a report of PSG’s bribery in New Orleans. It also alleges more subtle forms of corruption. For example, it claims that the former director of Stockton’s MUD was ordered to inflate his operating budget in order to make the OMI deal appear more attractive.
I’m not about to defend the water industry on this issue. Corruption is indefensible. You should be out there condemning it in all of its forms, and pushing processes that prevent it. You should be advocating greater transparency, and competition, and perhaps most important, stiff penalties for those who abuse the public trust. The US has fairly strong anti-corruption laws – laws governing both transactions here and the practices of US firms abroad. But many of the players in the international water business aren’t as constrained. If those of you who compete in the developing world really want to persuade your critics that you’re serious about making this business squeaky clean, you should be pressing the World Bank to enforce its anti-corruption policy. Doing so is in your interest for another reason, as well: Better enforcement will make US companies more competitive, because it will level the playing field.
What we’re talking about here is accountability, which is another major concern of privatization’s critics. This is an issue that I spent quite a bit of time on in my October talk, so I won’t dwell on it now. I talked about the accountability that inheres in well-crafted contracts, and in markets, and in the legal regimes governing private firms.
Another form of accountability, of course, lies in regulation – environmental regulation, regulation of drinking water quality, regulation of customer service, and economic regulation. Virtually all of privatization’s opponents agree on the need for strict government oversight – not only tough laws, but also vigorous enforcement of these laws. Why not link arms with them on this? You’re getting nailed for lobbying against higher water quality standards. NAWC is actually singled out by name for this infraction in Public Citizen’s Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Water Privatization. Your executive director insists that this accusation is entirely unfounded. I don’t know enough about your lobbying program to make a judgement.
In any case, you may remember that in October I urged you to lobby for a stricter regulatory regime. I tried to persuade you that tougher standards are in your interest, since municipalities will turn to you for help in meeting them. I remain convinced. Arguing for tighter standards and stricter enforcement would create a win-win situation for you. It would enhance your credibility as defenders of the public interest. And it would grow your client list. You have the competitive advantage here: You’re more flexible, more innovative, more efficient. As far as I can see, there is no downside to lobbying for tougher standards.
But ultimately, of course, your credibility doesn’t rest on what you lobby for. It rests on your performance. And performance is another issue that privatization’s opponents like to raise. In its Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Water Privatization, Public Citizen claims that “privatization undermines water quality.” Interestingly, in making this argument, it doesn’t provide one single example of private owners or operators producing water of poor quality. In many other documents, though, it does criticize what it calls the “fiasco” in Atlanta, noting problems with discoloured water and boil water advisories. Other groups likewise focus on Atlanta.
What I want to know is: What’s your response? And where is it? This brings me back to what I said in October. You’ve got to start presenting some information on Atlanta! It was the highest-profile water privatization in the country – and now, it’s your highest-profile failure. You’ve got to come clean on the experience. You’ve got to explain to the public what worked, what didn’t work, and why. You’ve got to spell out what you’ve learned, and why you’re confident that you won’t make the same mistakes in the future. I recently logged onto United Water’s site, and I couldn’t find any explanation of what went wrong. A piece called 2003 in Review included a reference to having learned “important lessons,” but there was no indication of what those lessons were. The only other reference I found was a joint news release announcing that the decision to terminate the contract was mutual and that both parties were committed to a smooth transition back to public operations. I hate to say it, but that’s a bit like putting lipstick on a corpse. Surely you can do better than that.
The public needs information in order to understand and assess privatization. Right now, it’s getting its information from privatization’s opponents. The problem is that privatization’s opponents often have their facts wrong. For example, in Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Water Privatization, Public Citizen claims that in England and Wales, in the decade following privatization, “water companies … did not invest in infrastructure, claiming profitability would be compromised.” That’s an astonishing claim, given that the water companies actually invested £33 billion during that period.
It’s not hard to pull the rug out from under such arguments. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of presenting the facts on water privatization in England and Wales. I’ve been able to do so because the information is readily available. I just have to go to a regulator’s web site. I’ll find detailed comparisons of the performance of the water utilities before and after privatization.
In the fall, I gave a talk to the British Columbia Water and Wastewater Association. It was supposed to be part of a debate about water privatization in England and Wales. I was going to be up against a representative of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. I went armed with PowerPoints on capital investment, drinking water quality, environmental performance, leakage, price increases, disconnections, and customer service.
For drinking water, I had figures that demonstrated steady improvements in compliance since privatization. I documented huge drops in the number of water-supply zones breaching limits for faecal coliforms and pesticides. I pointed to big improvements in the taste of water. I showed that drinking water now has less iron in it, less nitrate, less lead, and less aluminum.
I also described big improvements in customer service. I had figures on the percentage of properties at risk of low water pressure, and those subject to unplanned supply interruptions, and those at risk of flooding from sewers. I also documented improvements in the utilities’ responses to billing contacts.
Faced with the facts, the union representative didn’t even attempt to debate the issue. The title of her talk was British Water Privatization Experience: An Opponent’s Perspective. She never once mentioned the subject. She must have realized that her arguments couldn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Unfortunately, it would be harder for me to engage in a similar debate about privatization in the US. That’s not because there haven’t been many successes here. There have been. But detailed information on those successes is harder to come by.
You’ve put out some good information on the results of various privatizations. But much of that material hasn’t been comprehensive enough to enable the public to carefully evaluate the gains and losses. And some of the material has been too anonymous. For example, the Hudson Institute study included a lot of great information, but didn’t attach it to specific projects.
Please: Name names! Provide details! Post comparisons of performance before and after privatization. Post comparisons of comparable public and private utilities. And don’t be selective: Include data on your successes and failures. If you need guidance, look to the UK. Visit the web sites of Ofwat, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, and the Environment Agency. Try assembling the kinds of reports that they put out – comprehensive, and yet easily understood by the public.
Marcel Proust said that “the truth is the most cunning of enemies.” If you perform better than your publicly owned and operated counterparts, if you publicize your achievements and back up your claims with facts, you can win the battle for public opinion. If your record is persuasive enough, I am convinced that you can even win over many of your critics.
I must confess that I do have a selfish motive in urging you to produce more and better information: I want to use the data in my fight for privatization in Canada. New battles are approaching, and I want to be armed with the best ammunition I can get.
I’m increasingly optimistic about privatization in Canada. In recent months, the debate has taken on a new tone – one that is more promising than it has been for several years. We’re not yet talking about the privatization of water utilities, but we are talking about privatization in general with more confidence, more enthusiasm. It’s important to note that much of the interest is coming from Liberal governments. So it’s harder for privatization’s opponents to dismiss it as ideological.
The federal government has appointed MP John McKay as parliamentary secretary for public-private partnerships. Mr. McKay hasn’t exactly been walking on eggshells. He dismissed union concerns about partnerships with the remark, “They’re locked in the Marxist-Leninist dialogue of the 1960s and ’70s and I feel sorry for them.” Those aren’t the words of someone who has reservations about privatization. Nor are these: “The sewer, water, all of that stuff can all be P3-ed. Why does the government have to run a sewage system?”
Unfortunately, the federal government doesn’t have that much to say about water and sewage systems, which are a provincial responsibility. But the feds do help fund municipal infrastructure. And Mr. McKay has promised that before his government funds an infrastructure project, it will do a “P3 Analysis” to determine if and how the private sector can help reduce costs.
Support for water utility privatization is growing in several federal departments, as well. Industry Canada is more aggressively advocating domestic privatization as a way to improve the international competitiveness of the Canadian industry. Native Affairs is looking to the private sector for help tackling the terrible problems with substandard systems on native reserves. And in a few weeks, Environment Canada will be sponsoring a workshop on urban water issues, in part to “enhance understanding” of public-private partnerships.
We’re also seeing quite a bit of interest at the provincial level. Last fall, the government of Quebec went public with its interest in municipal water and wastewater privatization. In November, the municipal affairs minister told a conference that the province needed private-sector know-how and private-sector funds to fix its water infrastructure.
The British Columbia government has made public-private partnerships “a key part” of its infrastructure strategy. It has set up a company called Partnerships BC, with a mandate to “promote, enable and help implement public-private partnerships.” Its current list of projects doesn’t include any water or wastewater plants. But it hasn’t shied away from talking about the opportunities. On the contrary, it has made quite a forceful pitch to the provincial water and wastewater association.
In February, the Ontario government released a discussion paper on infrastructure financing and procurement. It noted that too many water systems have been neglected and must be repaired and expanded. And it asked, “What risks and responsibilities can government appropriately shift to the private sector?”
We’re also seeing at least some renewed interest at the municipal level. In January, the city of Hamilton, Ontario, decided to stick with private operation of its water and sewage plants for another decade. The city’s contract with American Water Works will expire at the end of the year. It has been a very controversial contract, and the city was under a lot of pressure to take back operations. But it was adamant that it would benefit from the flexibility, innovation, efficiency, and other benefits offered by the private sector.
So it seems that Canadians just might be warming up to privatization. Certainly some of the recent moves have been controversial – especially in Quebec. But I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re seeing a more pragmatic approach this time around. No debate on privatization will be ever be completely free of ideology. But I’m hopeful that as these issues are debated, we’ll be assessing privatization on its merits, and focussing on what needs to be done to ensure that privatization benefits the public purse, and public health, and the environment.
Let me finish off with a few thoughts from the Pacific Institute. The institute’s Gary Wolff recently wrote an editorial for The Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. It began with this introduction:
“Public versus private” is not the bright line that separates efficient from inefficient management…. [W]e believe that the real solution to water problems worldwide has been overshadowed by the ideological debate between advocates and opponents of privatization…. In the end, it doesn’t matter to a resident of a settlement in Bombay or a suburb of Chicago whether a public or private company owns or manages the facilities that deliver clean and affordable water to their taps. What does matter is that people – wealthy and poor – have the water they need, that the environment gets a fair share, that profit levels and prices are reasonable, and that ambient water quality is protected for future generations.
Wolff concluded with this plea:
[T]he Gordian Knot of ideological debate about privatization can be cut rather than undone. We do not need to decide if private or public “players” are superior, in the abstract. We need to implement and enforce the “rules of the game” under which private or public utilities or operators are efficient and responsive to social needs and desires.
I think that’s excellent advice: Don’t try to undo the ideological knot. You’ll never be able to untangle the economic misunderstandings and the political biases. Just cut right through them. Do so by embracing transparent and inclusive processes. Do so by advocating tough regulation and strict enforcement. And do so by performing well. Publicize your successes, but when you make mistakes, don’t ignore them. Be forthcoming about what happened, and why, and what you’re doing to correct the problems. I think that you’ll be surprised by how quickly the threads of opposition unravel.