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Coxford Lecture explores problems of privatization

In her 2017 Coxford Lecture, professor Debra Satz discussed various problems with and challenges to the privatization of public goods.

Satz, the Marta Sutton Weeks professor of law and society at Stanford University and Senior Associate Dean for the Humanities and Arts, delivered the annual public law lecture to a full house at Western Law on March 9.

Satz focused on two issues in particular: the privatization of education and the privatization of criminal justice, in the form of prisons. Very broadly, privatization can be understood to involve the shifting of responsibility from public to private entities, she said. 

Satz challenged the idea that the only consequences relevant to issues of privatization are those having to do with efficiency and choice, noting that privatization has vices along with virtues. With respect to criminal justice, Satz pointed out that privatizing prisons creates perverse incentive structures, where it is in the interest of private prisons to keep prisoners incarcerated longer and to lobby the government to implement more stringent immigration and criminal sanctions.

“Professor Satz’s lecture was a fascinating discussion of the variety of problems that privatization gives rise to,” said professor Andrew Botterell, the Director of the Coxford Lecture. “We are fortunate to have a venue like the Coxford Lecture in which academics and jurists can discuss issues of contemporary importance and controversy,” he added.

The annual Coxford lecture is generously supported by Western Law alumnus Stephen Coxford, LLB’77.

This article appeared in the Western Law 2017 Alumni Magazine.
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