Source: (2013) Emory Law Journal. 63:263-282.

Public institutions are public for a reason. Sometimes, it's because of the tragedy of the commons. We all need clean air and feel that the governing rules should be written with public input and enforced by a politically accountable entity, so we established the EPA. Sometimes, it's a collective action problem. We all need national defense and want to ensure that military power is used at the direction of our elected, civilian commanders, so we formed a public military. And sometimes, it's a moral sensibility. We want to deter crime and punish criminals, but we don't want victims to exact private retribution. Privatizing such core government functions can give us some gains in efficiency, but we risk forfeiting the benefits of the institutions' public character-in particular, equality and accountability. This Article will focus on areas where the pressure to privatize and the challenges to equality and accountability are most acute-education, prisons, the military, and the justice system. By focusing on each of these in turn, we hope to highlight some of the pitfalls of privatization and suggest some ways to avoid them. (excerpt)