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Can Anyone Implement the Law? The Discourse and Practice of Externalizing Legal Authority
Administration & Society  (IF2.69),  Pub Date : 2021-02-16, DOI: 10.1177/0095399721995459
Ulrika Mörth, Jon Pierre

Allowing private companies to de facto exercise legal authority is becoming increasingly common in several countries. Externalizing legal authority is sustained by a discourse replacing a conventional institutional approach to law enforcement with a functional approach where the agent is less important than efficiency and expected outcomes. Drawing on two brief case studies in Sweden—automobile inspections and reviews of international financial transactions—we argue that legal authority is transferred to for-profit actors with only a minimum of safeguards and accountability. For-profit actors are legal authority insiders but outsiders in the democratic chain of accountability.