The suspense-filled attempted partial privatization of the Narva Power Plants in the neo-liberal darling Estonia involved a rich cast, from trade unions and local scientists, via Estonian courts and ombudsmen to international consulting firms, major global banks and the US government. More important, a detailed single case study on the democratic decision-making process in this privatization case makes it possible to go beyond common generalizations regarding the consequences of neo-liberalism for democratic processes. It shows that purported proponents of economic neo-liberalism such as the US government sometimes use their arguments to advance the narrow business interests of politically well-connected firms. Established private firms can behave in a more rent-seeking manner than publicly owned, ex-communist companies. Liberal economic principles of open competition and a level playing-field are at times used by actors in the democratic process to question top-down, opaque economic decisions.

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