We know from experience that monopolies do not serve customers well. It is an odd fact of American life that we attack monopolies harshly when they are businesses, but embrace them warmly when they are public institutions. In recent years, as fiscal pressures have forced governments at all levels to streamline their operations, this attitude has begun to break down. Governments have begun to contract services competitively; school districts have begun to give their customers a choice; public managers have begun to ask their customers what they want.

This trend will not be reversed. The quality revolution sweeping through American businesses--and now penetrating the public sector--has brought the issue of customer service front and center. Some federal agencies have already begun to respond: the IRS, the Social Security Administration, and others. But there is much, much more to be done. By creating competition between public organizations, contracting services out to private organizations, listening to our customers, and embracing market incentives wherever appropriate, we can transform the quality of services delivered to the American people.

In our democratic form of government, we have long sought to give people a voice. As we reinvent government, it is time we also gave them a choice.