Document Type

White Paper


University of Maine Bureau of Labor Education

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Publisher location

Orono, Maine

Abstract/ Summary

Policymakers at the local, state, and federal government levels often struggle to balance the imperatives of providing necessary public services with the constraints of shrinking funds to pay for services such as transportation, prisons, and human services. Among the many possible solutions public entities may consider is the strategy of privatization, defined as “any process that is aimed at shifting functions and responsibilities, in whole or in part, from the government to the private sector through such activities as contracting out or asset sales.” This briefing paper is an update to an earlier publication by the Bureau of Labor Education on the “pitfalls and problems” of privatization (1998). As with the previous paper, this update will focus primarily on privatization as it concerns the provision of public services by states and localities in the U.S., rather than on federal levels or in other countries. While the complexities of privatization need to be explored in much greater depth by policymakers, this briefing paper explores some major issues, and offers some further resources.


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