Public Provision in Democratic Societies

Reasons to Reject Privatization


  • Martin O’Neill University of York, United Kingdom



If we hope to see values of equality and democracy embodied in our societies’ institutions, then we have a range of good reasons to favor expansive public provision of goods and services, and to oppose many forms of privatization. While Joseph Heath is right to argue that there are at least some forms of ‘anodyne privatization’, and while he is also right to argue for a more nuanced philosophical debate about the different dimensions of choice between forms of public and private provision, Heath fails to register various regards in which private provision can undermine these central public values. We often have strong egalitarian and democratic reasons to protect zones of decommodification; to resist the imposition of user-charges; and to favor insourcing and direct public procurement over various forms of outsourcing of public services. Public libraries provide a totemic illustration of some of the deep virtues of collective public provision in democratic societies. Overall, our reasons to reject privatization are stronger and more diverse than theorists such as Heath might have supposed.

Author Biography

Martin O’Neill, University of York, United Kingdom

Martin O’Neill is Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the University of York.




How to Cite

O’Neill, M. (2024). Public Provision in Democratic Societies: Reasons to Reject Privatization. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 16(2), 136–166.