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Wal-Mart has incentive to help its customers, but a government has none to help its taxpayers?!

Jason, I'm not sure which emoticon should go with your post. Anyway, I think your statement is about right, due consideration being made for its brevity. There are some incentives, but they are relatively weak, and so on. Katrina, on which Steve is an expert, seems to be a good example. The Republicans may well get a another crack at President in spite of the failures of FEMA. As I understand, mayor Nagin's office was guilty of some pretty bad mismanagement and yet he was reelected. (See the Wikipedia article on Nagin.) So evidence seems to favor the view that democratically elected governments generally have inadequate incentives to help the electorate.

I'm sorry I omitted the emoticon :)

It just frustrates me to read of "the incentive to help their neighbors that will always be absent in bureaucracies." (With regard to a lot of services that are not bottled-water delivery, it is rather obvious that adequate incentives exist.) This sort of over-the-top flourish makes the letter easy to dismiss. As they rightly teach in grade school: when you see "always" in the question, the answer is almost certainly "false".

Well letters to the editor are hardly academic journal articles or even policy studies. They are *supposed* to be full of rhetorical flourishes. I'm sure it won't get published anyway, but one might as well go out with guns blazing.

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