SANTA BARBARA — President Reagan on Thursday named a 12-member commission to find ways to divest the government of programs and functions he believes can be provided more efficiently by private citizens, businesses and organizations.
Reagan selected David Linowes, a University of Illinois political economist, to head the effort, which is a part of the campaign for an economic "bill of rights" Reagan has been pushing in recent weeks.
Among others named to the President's bipartisan Commission on Privatization were former Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird; James T. McIntyre, who headed the Office of Management and Budget for three years during the Carter Administration, and Walter B. Wriston, former chairman of Citicorp.
Reagan, nearing the end of a 25-day vacation, said in a statement that the commission "will help fulfill the commitment I made in my economic bill of rights to end unfair government competition and return government programs and assets to the American people."
In a fact sheet, the White House described the sale of the government's interest in the Conrail freight railroad for $1.9 billion as "the most successful" example of the move toward divestiture.
"There are many activities that are not the proper function of the federal government, and that should simply be left to the private sector," Reagan's statement said. "The American people know that in many cases, the government is less efficient than private enterprise in providing certain services."
The fact sheet also said that "contracting out," the practice of using private contractors to provide services used by government agencies, during the Reagan Administration has resulted in "annual savings of $602 million and the conversion of 38,000 positions to the private sector."
Linowes would not cite specific moves toward privatization that he would advocate.
"We're going to examine all areas of government," said Linowes, whose panel has six months to deliver its report to Reagan. "I come here objectively and independently. . . . We will balance all relevant, credible points of view."
Linowes did say that moving toward private operation of the federal prison system might be one possibility, saying that "our prisons are not working."