Sell the Postal Service

On any given day two kinds of mail show up in my box.  Netflix, and useless crap.  My bills are posted to a website and paid online. My mother sends me nice email messages instead of letters.  I can’t remember the last letter I wrote.  It was probably sometime before 2002.

Useful deliveries arrive at my door almost exclusively from FedEx or the brown truck.  They include regular care packages filled with Tony Chachere’s seasoning, Zatarains fish fry (great for onion rings), Steen’s ribbon cane syrup, and other necessities from the homeland.  None of them, besides my Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine arrive by USPS.

And increasingly, even my Netflix are delivered straight to my TV through my Wii.

Currently the US Postal Service is posting quarterly losses of about $3.5billion.  That’s quarterly, not annually.  You as a taxpayer are set to spend (borrow, actually) at least an additional $14billion this year for the privilege of maintaining an institution whose purpose in our day and age in entirely ambiguous. And that doesn’t include the cost of the USPS’s bloated pension liabilities.

The time has come to phase out free daily door-to-door mail delivery and sell the Postal Service.

Impossible?  The British are well ahead of us, with the new Tory government making plans to sell off the union-hobbled Royal Mail.  Japan is also considering it.

The Postal Service has one heck of a successful history behind it, dating back before the Declaration of Independence.  But its relevance today is comparable to the telegraph (which still exists, by the way).

A history is not a future.

Continuing to fund the money sink that is our postal monopoly is a symptom of the nastiest problem of modern government – no government program, no matter how ridiculous or archaic, can be terminated.

In spite of the government subsidized mail monopoly, private delivery services have been able to thrive.  They could compete to take over the remaining valuable elements of the USPS, including mailbox services.  And the taxpayers could experience a brief windfall, perhaps enough to fund a portion of our liability for postal workers’ pensions.  And the losses would end.

There is no way to make a useless, anachronistic service cost-effective.  We continue to underwrite the postal service because it has a massive, powerful union and we often lack imagination.

Selling off the postal service and ending its most outdated functions would be an intelligent way to show that government can be made effective.

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