Government by Contract: Outsourcing and American Democracy

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The dramatic growth of government over the course of the twentieth century since the New Deal prompts concern among libertarians and conservatives and also among those who worry about government’s costs, efficiency, and quality of service. These concerns, combined with rising confidence in private markets, motivate the widespread shift of federal and state government work to private organizations. This shift typically alters only who performs the work, not who pays or is ultimately responsible for it. “Government by contract” now includes military intelligence, environmental monitoring, prison management, and interrogation of terrorism suspects.

Outsourcing government work raises questions of accountability. What role should costs, quality, and democratic oversight play in contracting out government work? What tools do citizens and consumers need to evaluate the effectiveness of government contracts? How can the work be structured for optimal performance as well as compliance with public values?

Government by Contract explains the phenomenon and scope of government outsourcing and sets an agenda for future research attentive to workforce capacities as well as legal, economic, and political concerns.

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Editorial Reviews

Paul C. Light
This book sheds new light on a critically important topic. I recommend it to every student of contracting out and privatization.
Jacob S. Hacker
This book could not be more timely or important. Renowned legal scholars Jody Freeman and Martha Minow have assembled some of the best minds in law, public administration, economics, and political science to consider the pervasive trend toward outsourcing in American government. The result is not just an essential guide to a crucial development, but also a nuanced warning: For all the attractions of outsourcing, the tide of "government by contract" threatens both democratic values and shared policy goals.
Michael Trebilcock
This book documents both the dramatic recent increase in outsourcing to the private sector of functions traditionally performed directly by government in the U.S. and the equally dramatic breakdowns of traditional accountability mechanisms in many contexts (political, legal, economic). It also outlines an ambitious reform agenda which everyone concerned with the public policy-making process in the 21st century must take seriously.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674032088
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 552
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jody Freeman is Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.

Martha Minow is Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.

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Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Government by Contract: Outsourcing and American Democracy Jody Freeman and Martha Minow

  1. I. Recent Developments
  2. Public-Private Governance: An Historical Introduction William J. Novak
  3. The Transformation of Government Work: Causes, Consequences and Distortions John Donahue
  4. The Federal Framework for Competing Commercial Work between the Public and Private Sectors Matthew Blum

  5. II. Cases and Critiques
  6. Rent-a-Regulator: Design and Innovation in Environmental Decisionmaking Miriam Seifter
  7. Outsourcing Power: Privatizing Military Efforts and the Risks to Accountability, Professionalism, and Democracy Martha Minow
  8. How Privatization Thinks: The Case of Prisons Sharon Dolovich

  9. III. Responses and Reforms
    A. Don’t Increase Regulation
  10. Achieving Contracting Goals and Recognizing Public Law Concerns: A Contracting Management Perspective Steven J. Kelman
  11. Federal Contracting in Context: What Drives It, How to Improve It Stan Soloway and Alan Chvotkin

  12. B. Use Existing Tools
  13. Some Legal Reforms to Increase Contractor Accountability Nina A. Mendelson
  14. Privatization and Democracy: Resources in Administrative Law Alfred C. Aman, Jr.

  15. C. Press Constitutional Restrictions
  16. Private Delegations, Due Process, and the Duty to Supervise Gillian E. Metzger
  17. Outsourcing and the Duty to Govern Paul R. Verkuil
  18. Public Values/Private Contract Laura A. Dickinson

  • Notes
  • List of Contributors
  • Index

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