District Council 57

How we got to "smaller government"

Public-private partnerships. Charter schools. Private prison quotas. When it comes to privatization, it’s easy to get lost in the details.

But what does “privatization” really mean, and what’s exactly at stake? How’d we get to where large corporations control many of our public assets and operate virtually every type of public service?

The new article in Talking Points Memo sheds light on the answers to these important questions. For 40 years, the rhetoric of “smaller government” and tight public budgets has weakened democratic control over vital public goods, expanded corporate power, and increased inequality. Citizens are now seen as “consumers” by many of our political leaders. Competition and “choice” have replaced true democracy and shared prosperity as the guiding principles of governments big and small. Privatization, the handing over of public goods to private control, has driven many of these changes.

But it hasn’t always been this way—and there’s hope that the future of government could be different.

It’s becoming clearer to more and more Americans that the 40-year assault on government is enriching some and leaving more and more behind. In response, a new pro-public movement is growing quickly. Public resources like water are being protected, private prison companies are being turned away, and a growing movement is focused on rebuilding our national commitment to public education.

Imagining an alternative to “smaller government,” one that provides prosperity for everyone, no matter how wealthy or who they are, requires that we learn more about how we got here. The hope is the article, and the rest of TPM’s full privatization series, helps in doing that—please share it widely.

Click here to read the full article, “The History of Privatization.”

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