Market Testing/Market Failure

Health Service Privatisation in Theory and Practice, 1979–96
  • John Mohan


Writing in triumphalist vein at the height of the mid-1980s economic boom, John Redwood (1988) claimed that privatisation represented the most important economic phenomenon of the 1980s; he portrayed it as a global movement, sweeping all before it. However such a description was not only inaccurate with regard to the British welfare state (there were clearly some areas where the private sector’s writ did not run), it also represented a limited and partial explanation of moves towards privatisation. For to present privatisation merely as a sweeping global phenomenon is to neglect its intellectual and political origins in specific national contexts, and subsumes a range of different types of, and rationales for, privatisation. Moreover it ignores the extent to which privatisation has — or has not — achieved its declared aims. Clearly it has gone further in some sectors than others. Redwood’s views also neglect roads not taken: a triumphalist account such as his ignores the ways certain options were ruled off the political agenda and also ignores differences of opinion within the government of the day. It is therefore necessary to consider the attractions of and limits to privatisation.


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© John Mohan 1997

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  • John Mohan

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