Privatization of Welfare Services: A Review of the Literature. Political Support


Finally, an ideological preference for employing market-based approaches to address public problems has been on the increase across political party lines, along with skepticism about the value and role of government and a demand for more and better public services (Cohen and Eimicke 2000; Ryan 1999). Privatization allows policymakers to maintain their distance from the political liabilities associated with government programs, while satisfying their constituents' demands for a variety of public services. As has been discussed in the political science literature, Americans support specific public programs or causes they favor while at the same time endorsing the concept of minimal government (Almond and Verba 1989). With the popular and political focus on "shrinking government" in recent years, the public is often unaware that much of government's work is nonetheless being done by private-sector workers.(1) Also, because it is generally easier to end a contract than to lay off public employees, resources might be made available for a contract budget that would not be for a permanent increase in agency staff.

The privatization of specific programs, at least on the state and local level, has benefited from the advocacy of key political leaders (GAO 1997c). Support can come from the office of the governor or mayor, from a top agency official, and/or from members of the legislature, or from other influential political actors. This promotion has been central to the ability of privatization proponents to gather broad political and operational support, to meet the demands of implementation, and to work to reduce or overcome opposition.

The political support for privatization may also lead policymakers to provide more resources for functions such as child welfare, if these services are seen as being provided by competent private-sector organizations rather than public organizations that have come under criticism (Gurwitt 2000). Private organizations or companies might also have lobbying capacity that traditional providers lack, helping to increase support and resources

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