Privatizing Government Services

December 8, 2017 – Volume 27, Issue 43
Do business-run public services save taxpayers money? By Reed Karaim



Gonzalez, Joaquin III, and Roger Kemp, Privatization in Practice: Reports on Trends, Cases and Debates in Public Service by Business and Nonprofits , 2nd ed., McFarland, 2016. A collection of essays, edited by two public administration professors from Golden State University in San Francisco, explores the pluses and minuses of privatizing government services.

Michaels, Jon , Constitutional Coup: Privatization's Threat to the American Republic, Harvard University Press, 2017. A law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, argues that privatization threatens America's system of government by usurping power from civil servants and other participants in the democratic process.

Savas, E. S. , Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships , 2nd ed., Chatham House, 1990. A public affairs professor at the City University of New York who is considered a founder of the modern privatization movement outlines his ideas about the practical applications of the theory in this landmark book on the topic.

Verkuil, Paul , Outsourcing Sovereignty: Why Privatization of Government Functions Threatens Democracy and What We Can Do About It , Cambridge University Press, 2007. A legal scholar concludes that privatizing essential functions undermines government officials and democratic practices.


Alexander, Brian , “Privatization Is Changing America's Relationship With Its Physical Stuff,” The Atlantic, July 12, 2017, Privatization is turning citizens into customers, the author argues.

Bauer, Shane , “My four months as a private prison guard,” Mother Jones, July/August 2016, An award-winning undercover investigation at a private prison in Louisiana finds violent conditions and an overworked staff.

Ivory, Danielle, Ben Protess and Griff Palmer , “In American Towns, Private Profits from Public Works,” The New York Times, Dec. 24, 2016, An analysis of public works projects financed by Wall Street firms found that taxpayers often end up paying a much higher cost for utility bills because of contracts that guarantee certain returns for financial firms.

Manson, Katrina , “Erik Prince offers private military force in Afghanistan,” Financial Times, Aug. 7, 2017, The founder of Blackwater, which provided private security forces for the U.S. government in Iraq before being shut down for abusive use of force, proposes creating a new private military force for Afghanistan.

O'Neal, Lydia, and David Sirota , “Trump's Infrastructure Plan is Actually Pence's — And It's All About Privatization,” Newsweek, Sept. 4, 2017, President Trump's plan to use private financing for infrastructure spending are traced to Indiana's approach to building a private toll road, which eventually went bankrupt.

Porter, Eduardo , “When Public Outperforms Private in Services,” The New York Times, Jan. 15, 2013, A review of privatized government enterprises here and abroad finds that such projects are successful when the privatized enterprises are given clear-cut goals and are rewarded for reaching those goals.

Reports and Studies

“Building America While Building the Middle Class: Best Practices for P3 Infrastructure Projects,” In the Public Interest and Partnership for Working Families, March 9, 2016, A liberal think tank and a public interest advocacy group outline safeguards to ensure that taxpayers and workers benefit from public-private infrastructure projects.

Chassy, Paul, and Scott Amey , “Bad Business: Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on Hiring Contractors,” Project on Government Oversight, Sept. 12, 2011, Outsourcing government jobs to private contractors can end up costing more than having the government perform the same job in-house, according to a study by an organization dedicated to eliminating government waste.

Edwards, Chris , “Options for Federal Privatization and Reform Lessons from Abroad,” Cato Institute, June 28, 2016, A libertarian think tank outlines reasons for privatizing much of the federal government's operations and assets, including air traffic control, Amtrak and the U.S. Postal Service.

Stuart, Austill, and Leonard Gilroy, eds., “Annual Privatization Report 2017,” Reason Foundation, A libertarian think tank releases a yearly report tracking privatization trends in local, state and federal government in a variety of areas, including prisons and air and surface transportation.

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Document APA Citation
Karaim, R. (2017, December 8). Privatizing government services. CQ researcher, 27, 1017-1040. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2017120809
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