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Many people have argued that we should privatize much of government—that is, turn over to the private sector such traditional governmental activities as running prisons, Social Security, public broadcasting, public schools, and even some of our military engagement overseas. Is this a good idea? What programs, if any, should be privatized?

Quick answer:

Privatizing government and government-run institutions, such as prisons and schools, is definitely not a good idea, as it would lead to significant social inequality.

Expert Answers

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When answering this question, you need to make sure that you take into consideration why the programs and institutions you mention have so far been run by the government in the first place. The reason why schools, Social Security, and other institutions have been under government control so far is because it is for the benefit of the country. Every citizen should be able to benefit from the existence of these institutions regardless of their social, ethnic or financial background. Being run by the government ensures that all of these institutions are run the same way, which allows for consistency across the country. As a result of this, you can clearly see that the organization of these institutions is currently not driven by the desire for personal financial gain. This means that the current systems are less vulnerable: they are fairly equal and neutral systems that are not subject to personal interpretation or the desire for personal financial gain.

The next question you need to ask yourself is how this would change if these institutions were run by private companies instead. You will find that in this instance, the motivation will probably no longer be the sole benefit of the population, but the benefit of the private company instead. Suddenly, there would be the danger that financial gain will determine the decisions taken in these institutions.

I will illustrate this for you, using schools as an example. Currently, schools are funded by taxes, as they are run by the government. However, should they be privatized, then effectively all schools would turn into private schools, which could result in schools charging varying fees. The consequence of this would be that students could no longer go to the school they wish to as they might not be able to afford it. As a result, the social divide in the country would become bigger, because some people would only be able to afford a minimal level of education, while others would be able to afford to pay extortionate fees for top schools and would receive better education as a result. Looking at the other government-run institutions in your question, the result of privatization would be similar.

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