Over the past several decades, we have witnessed an extraordinary transfer of wealth and power from public ownership into private hands. The shift of public goods—such as public lands, transportation and utility infrastructure, healthcare services, prisons, and schools—into the control of corporations has paralleled a conservative turn in American politics, in which “free markets” are championed as the most efficient and effective means of managing social services and distributing public resources. But privatization has taken a toll on both the quality of the goods and services on which the public relies, and on democracy as a whole. We talk to Donald Cohen, co-author of The Privatization of Everything and executive director of In the Public Interest, about how the privatization of public services and institutions has undermined civil rights, deepened inequality, and made government less accountable—and how the public can restore its ownership of the commons.
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