ON-Lion Letter

"The ghastly tragedy of the water supply in Flint, Michigan, is everyone's nightmare," begins a post by Jeffrey A. Tucker on the website of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in Atlanta.  "The local government bore the responsibility of getting clean water to its citizens, consistent with long municipal tradition.  But instead of clean water, testing in October 2015 proved that it was actually toxic, containing dangerous levels of lead.

"A stimulus project gone wrong, and the resulting failure of the local bureaucrats and politicians to coordinate their water contracts, led to a terrible mistake:  poisonous brown water, pulled from the contaminated Flint River, pumped into homes, schools, and businesses, with effects that could last a lifetime," Tucker continues.

"But here’s the good news:  the private sector has come to the rescue!  Walmart, Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle have announced they will deliver 6.5 million bottles of water to the city," he writes.  "They've promised to do this through the end of 2016.  It’s more than enough for the 10,000 residents.  It’s more than the state has done, and the private suppliers are not forcing anyone else to pay for it."

Tucker is the director of digital development at FEE, which is supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.  His most-recent book is Bit by Bit:  How P2P Is Freeing the World.

"Isn't it obvious," he asks, "what's happening here?  The private sector has become the service provider of last resort.  It's the sector with the resources, intelligence, and -- dare I say it? -- compassion to get the job done.  Meanwhile, governments at all levels have proven themselves to be flops at performing the tasks they have been historically designated to provide.

"Time to update the civics textbooks:  the future of public service is private enterprise," Tucker concludes.  "And the future of the public sector will be much like its past:  failure, flailing, and finger-pointing."

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