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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Privatization's Progeny


These ought to be heady times for government service contracting. Once a controversial hobbyhorse of libertarian policy wonks and conservative ideologues, service contracting is now mainstream, championed by leading officials across the political spectrum. Once the target of serious legal challenges, contracting emerged from those early courtroom battles  not only unscathed, but also emboldened by the judiciary’s tacit endorsement. And, once believed too dangerous to be introduced in contexts calling for the exercise of sovereign power, service contracting is now ubiquitous in military combat, municipal policing, rule promulgation, environmental policymaking, prison administration, and public-benefits determinations.

But times are changing. Privatization’s proponents have always relied on government service contracting to promote its four-fold agenda: boosting efficiency, maximizing budgetary savings, enhancing unitary control over the administrative state, and reaping political dividends. Now, however, these proponents are also branching out. They are experimenting with newer, more compelling instruments that provide surer, quicker routes to promote privatization’s fiscal, political, and programmatic aims. In short, they are empowering a new generation poised to advance the privatization agenda in ways traditional service contracting never has. They are empowering privatization’s progeny.


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