"Privatization" of local government is making headlines throughout the world. But much of the debate on contracting has been high on politics, philosophy and emotion, with little attention to the practical issues of how to do contracting well. This work seeks to shift the debate away from the politics and rhetoric to the practicalities and realities of contracting. The text is concerned with four issues: the role of contracting in government; the appropriateness of different contracting strategies; the process of contracting; and who does the contracting. Drawing on examples in the US and UK, the author considers the historical and cultural context of contracting, where contracting works and where it doesn't, the features of smart contracting, and the conditions that are conducive to smart contracting.