Fred Foldvary on Saturday Mail — If USPS won’t do it, let private enterprise deliver
|March 12, 2002||Posted by Staff under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Fred Foldvary’s Editorial
If USPS won’t do it, let private enterprise deliver
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The chiefs of the United States Postal Service are proposing to stop most delivery of mail on Saturdays. They claim reduced revenues necessitate a cut-back. But fewer deliveries imply that some users may cut back further on postal services and switch to other means for package delivery and bill payments. There will be that much more mail on Monday, which will delay some of it to Tuesday. Altogether, cutting Saturday delivery is a bad idea.
The USPS is a government monopoly. Private carriers are not permitted to deliver first-class mail. There is competition in express mail, but that is only for expensive mail needing the urgent delivery at several dollars per package. Because of their governmental monopoly on ordinary first-class mail, the postal service has a moral obligation to provide adequate service.
If high costs truly require the USPS to stop delivering mail on weekends, then they should open up first-class mail delivery on weekends to private enterprise. If the post office can’t deliver on weekends, let private enterprise do it. It would then be legal for a private firm to collect mail for delivery only on weekends.
It would be less of a violation of the US Constitution to let private enterprise deliver mail on weekends than for the USPS to deliver Saturday but not Sunday. The government now delivers mail on Saturday but not Sunday because Sunday is the church and holy day for most Christians, although not for Jews, Muslims, and several Christian Churches which keep the Saturday Sabbath.
It would be best for the public to completely demonopolize the USPS and let private enterprise compete with all its services. The postal service is heavily subsidized. It does not pay property taxes on its post office buildings and lands. It is exempt from State sales taxes. Private firms must pay such taxes, which get passed on to consumers. And yet with these subsidies, the USPS is still not able to compete with private enterprise, and government legally prohibits the private companies from doing business.
There is no economic reason for the USPS monopoly. Private enterprise would provide better service, including weekend delivery. There would also be shorter lines at service windows. The real reason for the government monopoly on first-class mail is to enable officials to monitor mail. They spy and snoop on mail to try to catch those violating tax, drug, and smuggling laws. The mail does not have to be opened; they can check return addresses, meter markings, and use various light and scanning techniques.
If private enterprise delivers the mail, then it will be difficult for the federal government to monitor mail communications. But in fact with the huge volume of mail, they can monitor only a small fraction of mail anyway. And smart criminals are not going to send loot through the US Postal Service. Let it go, USPS, let it go!
This is not the first time the USPS has proposed to end Saturday delivery. Congress was considering this also in 1985 (See The Last Dinosaur .) At a Cato Institute conference, Mail @ millennium:” The Future of Private Postal Service, held in 1998, Postmaster General William Henderson conceded that the USPS is likely to lose its monopoly status within the next decade. He stated, “Deregulation of the postal monopoly is likely to occur, and the competitive environment will become more dynamic,” although the postmaster general opposed the privatization of the USPS.
In the 1970s, the USPS responded in the affirmative to the question, is a political bumper sticker a letter and thus subject to the postal monopoly? Imperialism follows monopoly, and as its revenue keeps falling, the USPS may extend the definition of a forbidden “letter” to perhaps include a note that you deliver personally to a neighbor on Saturday. They won’t deliver the note, but they won’t let you do it either. Perhaps if you print it and don’t sign the note, it may be considered “printed matter,” and you won’t be sent to prison for handing it to your neighbor.
It’s time to demonopolize the postal service, and its ending of weekend mail may be a good opportunity to at least allow private enterprise to deliver on those days in which the USPS refuses to do so. And Congress should allow private carriers to deposit the weekend mail in your mailbox. There is no good reason for the postal monopoly, and ending weekend delivery provides an even better reason for postal competition.
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Copyright 2001 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.