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Authors

Paul Starr

Abstract

Privatization is a fuzzy concept that evokes sharp political reactions. It covers a great range of ideas and policies, varying from the eminently reasonable to the wildly impractical. Yet however varied and at times unclear in its meaning, privatization has unambiguous political origins and objectives. It emerges from the countermovement against the growth of government in the West and represents the most serious conservative effort of our time to formulate a positive alternative. Privatization proposals do not aim merely to return services to their original location in the private sphere. Some proposals seek to create new kinds of market relations and promise results comparable or superior to conventional public programs. Hence it is a mistake to define and dismiss the movement as simply a replay of traditional opposition to state intervention and expenditure. The current wave of privatization initiatives opens a new chapter in the conflict over the public-private balance.

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