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Privatization, dubbed piratization by critics, refers to the sale of publicly owned assets to the private sector.

See the report "Can the private sector deliver public goods?" which comes jointly from the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, World Bank, and the World Resources Institute[1] for background information.

In The Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible contracting, has many resources related to privatization in a variety of sectors on its website ( [2]


Perhaps the most offensive form of privatization is that which involves natural resources to which the entire public has equal rights of enjoyment.

Another form of privatization is of "Public space, universal community services and their historic traditions which bind our nation together" (Post Offices, Libraries, National Parks)[1]

Privatization of airports, bridges and public roads



State and federal highways

  • On June 29, 2006, former Bush administration official and Indiana governor Mitch Daniels told a room full of reporters and state lawmakers that "Indiana had received $3.8 billion from a foreign consortium made up of the Spanish construction firm Cintra and the Macquarie Infrastructure Group (mig) of Australia, and in exchange the state would hand over operation of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road for the next 75 years." In return, the consortium's contract yielded "hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks", "immunity from most local and state taxes", "all the tolls, which it was allowed to raise to levels far beyond what Hoosiers had been used to. By one calculation, the Toll Road would generate more than $11 billion over the 75-year life of the contract, a nice return on mig-Cintra's $3.8 billion investment."[3]

Privatization of correctional facilities

Privatization of education

Privatization of essential services

  • For example: electricity (i.e. Enron) and communications (i.e. WorldCom).

Privatization of government information

Privatization of health care

Privatization of Iraq

Privatization of Latin America

Privatization of police powers

Privatization of public air waves

"... the privatization of the airwaves, a public resource worth hundreds of billions of dollars in both market value and future federal revenue. The contemplated FCC action could result in the biggest special interest windfall at the expense of American taxpayers in history. ... These airwaves are owned by the public. For more than 75 years broadcasters, cellular phone companies and other commercial service providers have acquired exclusive access to scarce spectrum space only under temporary, renewable licenses; in return, they serve the public interest. But if the FCC has its way, that social contract will be voided. The Washington Post, August 11, 2003.

Privatization of public policy by GOP, Inc.

Privatization of Social Security

Privatization of U.S. Government

  • "On November 19, 2002, the White House Office of Management and Budget placed a notice in the Federal Register proposing that 850,000 federal 'Full-Time Equivalents' could just as well be performed by private companies. As the notice points out, those 850,000 amount to half the current federal workforce. The Administration told The Washington Post that it has a goal of reaching the 15 percent mark by September 30, 2003.
"All federal agencies must now 'justify, in writing, any designation of government personnel performing inherently government activities.' Other positions will then be considered potentially 'commercial,' or 'a recurring service that could be performed by the private sector.' These major changes took effect on May 29.
"By 'inherently governmental,' the new policy means jobs that have 'substantial discretion' to 'commit the government to a course of action when . . . decision-making is not already limited or guided by existing policies, procedures, decisions, orders, or guidance.'" August 2003.
  • Karen Jowers, Stephen Losey, and Dan Davidson, "DoD may outsource mail delivery", Federal Times, January 30, 2006: "The Defense Department is starting to move forward on a plan to outsource its billion-dollar-plus mail operation, which would be one of the government’s biggest privatization projects in recent years."

Privatization of water resources

Also see water wars.

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. "World Resources 2002-2004: Decisions for the Earth: Balance, voice, and power," World Resources Institute, 2003.
  2. "In The Public Interest,", February 16, 2011.
  3. Daniel Schulman with James Ridgeway, "The Highwaymen," MotherJones, January/February 2007: "Why you could soon be paying Wall Street investors, Australian bankers, and Spanish builders for the privilege of driving on American roads."

External articles