Against Privatization as Such
31 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2015 Last revised: 6 Nov 2015
Date Written: May 19, 2015
Privatization has occupied the attention of theorists of different disciplines. Yet, despite the multiplicity of perspectives, the typical arguments concerning privatization are instrumental, relying heavily on comparing the performance of a public functionary with that of its private counterpart. This paper challenges this approach for leaving unaddressed other important consequences of shifting responsibilities to private entities. More specifically, privatization cuts off the link between processes of decision-making and the citizens and, therefore, erodes political engagement and its underlying notion of shared responsibility.
The effects of privatization are not restricted to the question of whether public prison is better or worse qua prison than its private counterpart or whether private forestry is better or worse qua forestry than its public counterpart. It extends to whether stripping the state of its responsibilities erodes public responsibility. For privatization is not only the transformation of detention centers, trains, tax inquiry offices, forestry operations, and so on, considered one service at a time. It is also the transformation of our political system and public culture from ones characterized by robust shared responsibility and political engagement to ones characterized by fragmentation and sectarianism.
Keywords: private/public distinction, privatization, shared responsibility, public office
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation