The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy

Si Kahn, Author, Elizabeth Minnich, Author Berrett-Koehler Publishers $14.95 (290p) ISBN 978-1-57675-337-8
The wholesale takeover of government services by private corporations is decried in this rousing, if not very rigorous, polemic. Labor activist and community organizer Kahn, author of How People Get Power, and feminist philosopher Minnich, author of Transforming Knowledge, regale readers with recent efforts to privatize Social Security, public schools and health care, welfare bureaucracies, army mess-halls and, especially, prisons. (Kahn runs Grassroots Leadership, an organization that fights prison privatization.) The authors contend that such initiatives are often predicated on efforts to drain funds from public programs in order to create the very crises that privatization purports to fix; and while privatization impedes public oversight and turns decent government jobs into low-wage makeshifts, they argue, it rarely boosts efficiency or reduces costs. Indeed, they insist that conservative privatizers aim to ""destroy independent, democratic government itself""-to shrink the public sector where citizens can exercise their rights, turn it into a cash-cow for business interests and institute a quasi-fascist ""merger of the power of the corporation and the state"" that tramples individual freedoms. The authors present their arguments in a crowd-pleasing populist style flavored with general anti-corporate invective, satirical playlets and a big helping of Kahn's folk songs about the downtrodden. Unfortunately, the devil of privatization resides in the details, and the authors' inadequately sourced account skimps on the facts and figures that would lend some authority to their sermonizing. Kahn and Minnich mount a vigorous defense of the public good against the profit motive, but they would be more persuasive if their rhetoric didn't outrun their reporting.
Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 321 pages - 978-1-60509-270-6
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