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Reason Foundation

Privatization and accountability

Adrian Moore
September 11, 2004, 12:31pm

This article is about a teacher who's back was broken by a 200-lb mentally retarded 8th grade student. The teacher sought to sue the county and state agencies managing the kid's treatment. Turns out she cannot sue them--they are immune from such liability. This story raises all kinds of issues, but one that struck is accountability. People often worry that privatization will lead to a loss of accountability. But over the years I have see in practice and in research that government agencies and workers are usually immune from liability for bad decisions, and even for outright bad behavior. Private firms performing the same services, on the other hand, are directly and legally liable in such situations, as are private workers. For example, private prison firms and workers are not immune from liability for violating a prisoners civil rights--government prison guards are! A competent privatization will increase accountability, not decrease it.

Adrian Moore is Vice President, Policy


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