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The Malaise of the Mail Monopoly

I read on CNN today that the price of stamps is going up again, 1 cent more this time up to 42 cents for a standard letter. The Post Office has apparently come up with the cute little gimmick of “Forever stamps” which can be purchased at the going rate (e.g. now 41 cents) and used forever, even if postage rates change. Still I thought it would interesting to post the Cato Institute’s view on the matter:

Mail service in the United States is slow and unreliable because the government has a monopoly. The implicit motto of every monopoly is, “The public be damned!” As long as the Postal Service has no competition, it will have little or no incentive to treat its customers with the respect they receive elsewhere in a competitive economy.

With over 800,000 employees, the Postal Service is the United States’ largest employer. It has added more new employees—150,000—during the Reagan years than have been cut by all other federal agencies to reduce federal employment. However, the more workers the Postal Service has hired, the worse service has become, and the more incorrigible the system appears to be….

A 1976 New Yorker cartoon expressed what could be the Postal Service’s new motto, “Neither lethargy, indifference, nor the general collapse of standards will prevent these couriers from eventually delivering some of your mail….”

The United States should recognize that the words “monopoly” and “public service” will almost always be a contradiction. The public is best protected when citizens have the right of free choice. We have a choice of blindly trusting to the generosity of government bureaucrats or of relying on competing entrepreneurs. Is there anyone who would say America would be better off if the government outlawed Federal Express and UPS? Is there anyone who thinks that America would be better off if the Postal Service ran the telephone system?

Then why should we continue the Postal Service’s monopoly over first-class mail, simply because our ancestors also endured a postal monopoly? It should not be a federal crime to deliver the mail faster than the U.S. Postal Service.

Here is a link to the full, particularly well-written report. This report was written in 1988, twenty years ago, yet none of the underlying facts seem to have changed and of course the USPS has not learned.


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