The Possibilities and Limitations of Privatization
GOVERNMENT BY CONTRACT: OUTSOURCING AND AMERICAN DEMOCRACY. Edited by Jody Freeman and Martha Minow. Cam-bridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2009. Pp. viii, 528. $49.95.
This excellent collection of essays arrives when the debate about privatization is already well advanced. Beginning largely during the 1970s, but accelerating in response to the second Bush Administration’s unalloyed enthusiasm for privatization, the scholarly literature on privatization is now voluminous. In fact, a number of the contributors to this volume have already written books or extensive articles about the topic. This is an advantage. It means not only that the contributors are extremely knowledgeable, but also that they have moved past the overheated enthusiasm or instinctive horror with which the debate began to more modulated and informed positions. They can therefore enter into a sustained, constructive dialogue with each other that constitutes a further virtue of Government by Contract. In all too many edited volumes, the contributors talk past each other; these contributors have read one another’s work, taken it seriously, and responded in ways that deepen the debate. The result is a book that will be extremely useful for readers who are new to the topic and want to familiarize themselves with its essential facts and basic issues, and equally useful for those who have been following the controversy and want to remain up to date with its most recent ramifications. In other words, if you have any interest in privatization, you should read this book. And, as Freeman and Minow argue in the Introduction, if you do not have any interest in privatization, you should develop one.