Both the public and private sectors have their good and bad points

May 22, 2012

Columnist Thomas Schaller makes a very solid argument about the relative ability of the government and free markets to get things done ("Government is flawed, but markets are too," May 15). His critics' arguments, however, fall flat.

One reader wrote that competition in the private sector this leads to greater efficiency and better outcomes. But this argument fails to take into account the effect of monopolies and oligopolies on the supposed free market. Many industries are so expensive to get into that only a few players run the show (think of cable TV and energy).

Another reader wrote that government workers feel secure in their jobs and have little incentive to perform well. The problem, however, is that state, county and municipal governments have been laying-off a lot of workers lately. That's not much job security.

Moreover, many government sector jobs don't pay very well (if you want proof, look at the online advertisements for Maryland state jobs). Thus, the hope for a promotion to a higher-salaried position provides the incentive to perform well. Also, the notion that people will only work hard if they're constantly afraid of being fired is cynical and, frankly, absurd.

Sometimes people feel that the profit motive of the private sector leads to more efficient outcomes. And sometimes it does. But sometimes the lust for profit leads to cutting corners, sweatshop labor conditions or white collar crime.

Anyone who is looking at the world without blinders on should be able to recognize that both the government and the private sector have their pros and cons. Mr. Schaller did a good job of highlighting this. We should be looking for ways to improve both the public and the private sector, not eliminate one or the other.

Brent McKee, Arnold

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