Time to End the Post Office

I’m not one to gloat over the misfortunes of other people, but there is some rich justice in the oncoming financial collapse of the U.S. Postal Service. It’s about time for them to have to stand in line and wait for a government bailout, given the collective millions of hours they’ve made Americans stand in line just to buy a stamp.

The post office certainly faces huge problems–the responsibility to deliver mail six times a week to every address in the country, the inability to set its own rates, and the inability to go into other businesses, as do postal services in other countries. But the real problem with the post office isn’t any of these things.  The real problem:  it’s run by the government.

Case in point. A government agency whose name I won’t mention (it rhymes with Liar Mess) was trying to send me a certified letter the week before last. They left a slip in my home mailbox so that I could sign for the letter. I studied the card. Remarkably, there was a forty-digit number assigned to the package–which had been written out in longhand. Don’t they have computers at the post office? What are they, medieval monks?

I thought it would be faster if I sent my assistant to the post office to pick up the letter in person. There’s a space on the form where you can sign for an “agent” to do just that. So she took the signed form to the post office, and they refused to give her the letter, on the grounds that a lot of people discover these notices, perhaps by combing through other people’s mail, come to the post office, and pick up the packages.

What’s the point of having a box that says that an agent can pick up your package if you won’t actually give the package to the agent?

What’s the point of having a tracking system if the tracking numbers are forty digits long and written out by hand, which is a recipe for making errors if there ever was one?

What’s the point of having a post office in an era when 99 percent of mail is either bills or junk mail, which is subsidized by your tax dollars?

As a kid, I was a stamp collector, and experienced the romance of stamps from other countries and other eras. I was fascinated by the evolution of stamp design, the subjects that stamps commemorated, and the stories stamps told about blimps and jets and national parks and presidents and everything else they contained.

But the problem with stamps is that they go on envelopes, and the problem with envelopes is they have to go to the post office, and the problem with the post office is you have to stand on line.

I’m not averse to standing on line once in a while, but the problem with standing on line in the post office is the sense that the people there just don’t care about us at all. They see us as intrusions on their own personal roads to retirement. And now, some of those retirements are about to be rudely interrupted by the fact that the federal government cannot afford to fund the lavish pension schemes that they were counting on.

We live in an era of economic pain, and there’s no reason why government workers, past or present, should be exempt from pain. President Obama’s new jobs initiative takes pains to exempt government workers from the pain that we non-government employees face every day.

This is not fair.

Can we contemplate a world without post offices? Sure, why not? Any time the government gets out of a business, private firms swoop in and compete, on price and quality–two concepts that mean nothing to the government–to grab the business the government has left behind. I’ve never had a problem getting FedEx on the phone when I need them. And UPS, in all my experience of sending and receiving stuff, has never lost a package.

What if all bills went to the Internet? What if there were no more junk mail? I don’t exactly see that as the end of the world. Pretty environment-friendly, too.  And if some of the postal workers have to take a hit on their pensions, well, welcome to the real world. We’re under-funded and overcommitted.

In fact, once the post office goes bankrupt, let’s not stop there. How about shutting down every area where the government has had a decades-long monopoly, but just can’t drive results? Inner-city schools. Protecting the border. Heck, building and staffing prisons. Let’s privatize everything.

Actually, once you get past defense, regulating pharmaceutical companies, and making sure gas stations aren‘t overcharging you, there isn’t that much need for government at all.

Today the post office, tomorrow…everything else.

 

(New York Times bestselling author Michael Levin runs www.BusinessGhost.com, the nation’s leading provider of ghostwritten business books.)

Comments

  1. I love it. Well said! Every time I hear our beloved president going on about “if we love him” we’ll give him what he wants, I want to throw up! We cannot keep spending money like we have been and I think the USPS is another good place to save some money. I say give the post office the freedom to charge what they want and see how long they last. Don’t restrict what they charge or what services they provide. Let them diversify! I do most of my mail via the internet anyway. It is faster, gets me a quicker response and is more reliable than the post office. If they had some competition on equal terms (i.e. not government subsidized) it would be good for them! Privitize on! You have my support!

    • This ia s typical anti-union BS. The conservative Republicans are bad mouthing the post office because they want to distroy the unions just like they have in our manufacturing industry that they have exported to China.
      The real problem with the US is the contamination of our union with conservative Republicans. Get conservative Republicans out of our Union, the United States, and we will prosper.

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