Can we just sell the Post Office already?
On Wednesday, the United States Senate narrowly avoided a two-year ban on the closing of post offices, which prompted me to ask: do you guys still live in the 1950s?
In a world of Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, cloud services, Google Drive, Dropbox, 3D printing, UPS, DHL, and who knows what else, I have to ask: who still uses the postal service any more?
There are only a few people with which I still get mail from through the USPS. The first are direct mail types, and nobody reads those sort of things. (This is the way your trash can goes “OM NOM NOM.”) The second are my parents and grandparents, so, in other words, old people.
The thing is, as I said, nobody is reading the former, and the latter are getting fewer and fewer. Meanwhile, the postal service is hemmorraghing money; the Cato Institute’s Downsizing Government project notes that it lost $20 billion between 2007 and 2010, and it hasn’t done any better since then. The thing is, we taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill. A bill for something that these days, an increasingly small portion of the populace actually wants. And, at the same time there’s decreasing demand for its services, its costs have continued to go up as it struggles to deal with employee pensions. Not a good situation to be in.
Here’s a better idea: let’s just privatize the post office. And by privatize it, I don’t mean sell it to one major corporation, but let’s privatize the entire industry. Allow competing mail delivery services in the market. Ensure that there are no more monopolies on first-class mail within the United States.
What will happen? First, postage costs will likely come down—which have been inching up continually for years. Second, you’ll likely see innovation in the market as people try out new things (or resurrect old ones, like ECOM.) And third, which is perhaps the most important: Congress will finally stop having a reason to dither by naming post offices.
It is entirely appropriate to ask “Who will be hurt?” by this, but I can’t imagine anyone would be. You may say seniors, but think about it: they have a great deal of the wealth in this country, certainly more than the young. Someone is going to take a crack at getting a slice of that pie, and that means catering to those seniors for what they want.
If you need any more reasons for why this is such a good idea, just like Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute, who wrote back in 2009:
Reforms in other countries show that there is no good reason for the current mail monopoly. Since 1998, New Zealand’s postal market has been open to private competition, with the result that postage rates have fallen and labor productivity at New Zealand Post has risen. Germany’s Deutsche Post was partly privatized in 2000, and the company has improved productivity and expanded into new businesses. Postal services have also been privatized or opened to competition in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Japan is moving ahead with postal service privatization, and the European Union is planning to open postal services to competition in all its 27 member nations.
SWEDEN?!? Fricking Sweden is more American than the United States of America? Whoo boy, we may need to reevaluate our lives right here, if we’re being out-Americanized by that socialist pink-commie land over in Scandinavia.