There's been a lot of talk about the benefits of privatization lately—particularly from Mitt Romney, who has appeared sympathetic to those who'd privatize Medicare, veterans' health care, and even public schools, via vouchers. "Birds do it. Bees do it. Even Harvard PhD’s do it," quips Gail Collins in the New York Times. "Let's do it. Let's privatize." But she wants to clear up the matter: Privatization can be disastrous. As New Jersey privatizes parts of its prison system, 5,000 prisoners "have run, walked or wandered off since 2005."
"The hottest new wrinkle for private companies eager to tap into public school funding is charter cyberschools"—but only about 25% of such institutions have reached federal academic benchmarks, says one study. Meanwhile, privatization linked to employee timekeeping in New York "was supposed to have cost the city $63 million." Instead the city "wound up with a slightly unsleek tab of $700 million." There are some industries that can benefit from going private, an expert tells Collins—for instance, "construction or food services," whose performance is easily measured. Go too far with privatization, though, and it's like "having mercenaries run your war for you." Click for the full piece. (Read more privatization stories.)