Public Goods Post
thinking about the public economy
Under normal circumstance, it would be safe to assume that “public goods” are delivered by public agencies. But current circumstances are far from normal. Over the last several decades, more and more public goods have been delivered by a para-state, a privatized government virtually hidden from view. We taxpayers still pay, but our money goes to a growing army of corporations on the public payroll.
Private corporations operate programs, deliver services and even manage other contractors. Some citizens receiving public services encounter only private contract workers, and so are unaware that they are receiving a government service. While some forms of contract procurement have been in place since the nation’s birth, the very nature of contracting has changed as it has grown in scope. Basic governmental functions are now outsourced to for-profit corporations.
While the number of federal government workers has stayed roughly the same since the 1960’s – at a little over 2 million – the number of contract workers has ballooned. From the latest research it appears there are nearly twice as many contract workers as federal government workers. Public servants, who take an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution, have been replaced by corporations whose mission is to make a profit.
The time has come to stop simply trying to improve the oversight and role of private contractors in government operations, but to rebalance the way government is operated and put the public interest back in the driver’s seat.
Where government performance trips up, the cause is often traceable to contractors. Of the 32 federal programs that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) considered “high-risk” in 2015 because of “waste, fraud, abuse, cost overruns, persistent performance and management failures,” nearly 90% (28) work through contractors. As one observer of the assault on government has said, what most people think of as the “dysfunction” of government is the result of years of strategic effort.

The American people are paying the price in serious ways: compromised intelligence, which threatens our national security; deterioration of library services, which threatens preschool programs and voter literacy; policing for private profit, which threatens our systems of justice and public safety; fee-gouging by corporate contractors in the education “industry”, which drives up the cost of student loans and threatens to make higher education prohibitively costly.
Read the full brief about the creation of “private government”

Outsourced Government – The Quiet Revolution;
Examining the Extent of Government-by-Corporate-Contractor

June Sekera, Global Development and Environment Institute, September 2017.
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The Public Goods Post has been created by June Sekera, 
Founder and Director of the Public Goods Institute; and Research Fellow at the 
Global Development And Environment Institute, Tufts University.

The Public Goods Post is produced by Daniel Agostino.

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