Public values lost? Comparing cases on contracting out from Denmark and the United States

Torben Beck Jørgensen, Barry Bozeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Has the headlong rush to market competition in the public sector altered the sense of public values? In order to develop an insight into the role of public values, three quite different cases on contracting out are examined. One in Atlanta, Georgia (USA), and two in Denmark (municipalities of Farum and Graested-Gilleleje). To what extent and in what ways are public values taken into account in decisions about contracting out? Are public values lost, recycled, or regained when contracting out? As a starting point, a number of values such as political accountability, regime stability, transparency, social cohesion, user orientation, and efficiency are presented. Following that, news accounts of the three decisions are analysed. The role of values in the three decisions varies considerably. In the Atlanta and Farum cases on water and sewage the paramount concern is with values of cost efficiency, although in sharp contrast to the USA there is no firm belief in Denmark that contracting out will ultimately increase efficiency. In the Graested-Gilleleje case on elderly care--one of the corner stones in the Danish welfare state--one will expect strong opposition and a heated ideological debate. Nevertheless, contracting out has been decided upon and a successful implementation is under way. Although political and cultural contexts and the type of service in question do play an important role in explaining the differences, there are strong indications that political leadership and public management has a role to play and thus a responsibility for how we address the question of public values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-81
Number of pages19
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Comparative public administration
  • Contracting out
  • Privatization
  • Public management
  • Public value

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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