Abstract: This article analyzes the privatization of city governments in the United States. The focus is not on the contracting out of city services or the selling of city property to the private sector. The focus instead is on the conceptual,financial, and structural privatization of city governments themselves. The article describes this privatization by focusing on three aspects of city governance: city services, economic development, and the design of the city population. It presents two contrasting ways to conceptualize and structure these city functions, one embraced by the private city and the other by the public city. By doing so, it seeks to emphasize the different kinds of choices facing state governments when they empower and disempower city governments and to suggest what is at stake, both for individuals and American society as a whole, when these choices are made.