• I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.                                                                            - Thomas Jefferson

New York: Private vs. Public

I've recently arrived in New York and, yesterday, I had to go to a social security office and two US post offices. I got there by using the subway. While doing all this, I couldn't help but note the long wait times and mediocre to bad service I received, the dilapidated buildings, the decrepit trains &  subway stations, the smell of urine...

These features were especially striking when compared to other experiences I've had so far in the city. They're a world away from what it's like when you go to the Apple store and Best Buy, bookshops and clothing stores, restaurants and bars, etc.

I wonder if there's some economic and institutional reason here that could possibly account for this?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the the private organisations face fierce competition and so have to treat their customers with respect and offer them goods and services at competitive prices (in what tends to be attractive, desirable environments) if they want to stay in business—while the government agencies operate under an entirely different set of incentives and constraints?

Who loses money if you have bad experiences on public transportation?

Can you imagine what it'd be like to go into an Apple store—if it was run by the government?!

Apple store run by government

It would not have a transparent shopfront. In fact, it would probably be totally censored, since the government hates everything that is not PC.