U.S. Postal Service Broken, part 2,659

Ever since Lysander “Sandy” Spooner pointed out some legal and practical problems with the Postal Service monopoly, people have been pointing out that even full-bore Communist countries do a better job with the mails, and even if Socialism works over there, clearly USPS has failed and needs to go away. Among these have been collecting anecdotes of just how much the U.S. mail service sucks.

I present to you merely the latest in one of the Poster Children for Why, If Government Is the Answer, It Must Be a Stupid Question.

My December issue of Reason just arrived. Great, you say, it’s December. No problem. Except that, like most magazines, it ships the month before, and it arrived SEVEN (7) FRIGGING DAYS AFTER the January issue.

The idea that it was Reason that got this treatment is deliciously ironic, as it is the current bastion of libertarian ideals.

Really, can’t we just let UPS and Fed Ex compete for our first-class letters? They do a much better job. If you really feel like people in trailers squatting on federal property in some waterless, God-remebered piece of crap land in the Southwest need first class mail service, donate to a freaking charity, alright?

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2 Responses to U.S. Postal Service Broken, part 2,659

  1. Why assume that UPS and FedEx have any interest in carrying first-class mail?

    Right now they are in a pretty sweet position. They get to cherry-pick high-margin items (business mail and large parcels), which is where postal carriers make money, and leave the business of delivering standard mail, where margins are slim and recipients more spread out, to the Postal Service. The only reason the Postal Service handles it is because it’s required to by law, and it subsidizes first-class mail traffic heavily from fees off of bulk mail.

    If we did away with the Postal Service and let them “compete” for the first-class mail business, the most likely outcomes would be (a) a drastic reduction in service — no more guaranteed delivery to any address in the US; (b) a drastic increase in first-class rates; or (c) both.

    Considering the scope of the problem that the USPS is called on to solve, the resources they have to work with, and the private competitors they’ve got draining away the business that could otherwise subsidize less profitable routes, they do a pretty good job overall.

  2. Sandy says:

    Given that we have one of the worst mail services in the First World, I have to disagree.

    As to the extent of service, see my point about a charity above. Besides, guaranteed delivery to any address encourages sprawl. Maybe if there was no guaranteed delivery outside of a given radius, people would have another reason not to live so far from their jobs.

    As to cherry-picking, FedEx letters have already gotten them into hot water with the USPS for competing on their turf–they charge more now because they are forced to by law. Yet businesses pay the price–so I think there’s a market there that could be lower priced if it weren’t propped up by the government monopoly.

    And remember, those businessess are basing their current rates on the fact that they are competing with a company that has a guaranteed monopoly on certain kinds of mail and that has massive continuing subsidies in the form of the free infrastructure and regulations they inherited from Uncle Sugar–how much is the ZIP code system worth alone?

    Privatize the USPS (for real, this time) and let it compete with the others. I don’t mind paying market prices for first class mail. And if there aren’t additional miles of postal vehicle travel, well, imagine the lack of greenhouse gas emissions. Winning all ’round!

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