With the growth of the U. S. national government under the Obama administration, the perennial debate over where to draw the line between public and private has come to the fore yet again. This time around, however, the stakes are higher than ever, as unprecedented amounts of public money are poured into private corporations.
In Drawing the Line, Andrew Stark takes a fresh and provocative look at how Americans debate the border between the public realm and the private. Are these arguments specific to policy and community, or do the reveal something bigger about politics and society? Having conducted hundreds of interviews with policymakers and advocates, Stark weaves that input with his own innovative insights into a counterintuitive view on how citizens at the grassroots level divide up in policy debates - e.g., on education, land use, health care, and welfare - over the line between public and private responsibility. In doing so, the book provides striking "Main Street" lessons on creating new policy coalitions. The book is published by Brookings Institution Press.
This was a very fine book, with many nuanced vignettes of the interplay of public and private actors. Imagine, for example, denizens of gated communities disputing with adjacent police forces about who controls and pays for what. I do have one complaint, which is, I would be happier if the book opened with a nice history and tutorial, a sort of classic overview of this subject, and various concepts and implementations historically. I felt like I was plunked down in the middle of the movie: contemporary anecdotal situations. This is an evolving area and this book makes a good contribution.
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