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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/17865/the-postal-service-doesnt-need-reform/

The Postal Service Doesn’t Need “Reform”

July 25, 2011 by

An email from a D.C.-based tea party outfit urges me to sign a petition “to fix the USPS.”

Their proposed solution to the U.S. Postal Service’s $8 billion deficit is Congressman Darrell Issa’s Postal Reform Act, which would reduce mail delivery to five days a week, allow advertising at post offices and on postal vehicles, and reduce postal workers’ benefits.

If the tea party movement is as radically anti-government as some make it out to be, this seems like an odd piece of legislation to promote. It merely tweaks the way the postal service functions; it does nothing to address the real problem, which is that the USPS is a government-run monopoly. If the bill passes, some tax dollars might be saved in the very short term, but the USPS will be just as badly managed as it always has been, and it will continue to rack up huge deficits. Take away one way for it to lose money, and it will surely find others.

At best, this bill seems to reflect the idea that government could be efficient if only it were “run like a business” — just cut some expenses, increase some revenue, and all could be well. But as Ludwig von Mises explained in Bureaucracy, any attempt to run a governmental organization as though it were a private business will fail because the organization still will not be able to engage in economic calculation and still will not be able to operate on a meaningful profit-and-loss basis as private businesses do. Postal workers and managers will still be focused on how to comply with bureaucratic rules, not on how to make money.

The only “reform” that can “fix” this is genuine privatization — that is, taking away the postal service’s monopoly privileges and subsidies and forcing it to either make a profit or go out of business.

I suspect that this bill’s promoters have little to do with the grassroots tea party; the finer details of postal policy are not the sort of thing that inspires a mass movement. I hope tea partiers who care about liberty — and I know there are many — will do as their figurehead Michelle Bachmann claims to do and read Mises, and then see why it’s pointless to waste time promoting legislation like this that doesn’t address the fundamental problems that have given rise to the big government they say they dislike so much.

{ 9 comments }

FDominicus July 26, 2011 at 2:48 am

I can not agree more. Government does not work like “market” and so the right thing is not to protect or even install state monopolies.

J. Murray July 26, 2011 at 6:57 am

The argument behind the Post Office is that it’s a necessity that won’t be provided by the private market. If that were the case, how come Lysander Spooner almost put it out of business by running the same routes and how come private mail delivery is illegal? The government’s attempts to protect the USPS from competitors is proof enough it doesn’t need to exist.

Bryan S July 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

Furthermore, UPS and Fedex drop my packages directly on my doorstep. No need to walk down the block to gov installed community mailboxes, which are nothing more than an excuse for them to do less work…..

João Paulo Magalhães July 26, 2011 at 9:23 am

«The only “reform” that can “fix” this is genuine privatization.

I would suggest that the term here should be liberalization instead of privatization. Abolish and revoke legal privileges conceded to USPS, and nothing more needs to be done: it’ll fall down like Goliath, allowing some other more efficient (set of) competitor(s) to offer its services in a saner way.

There’s more. Just as an animal created and kept in captivity will probably never be able to live in the wilderness because it never acquired the means and knowledge to do so, a previously bureaucratic institution will probably never be able to hold itself in a world of unfettered competition – because it never acquired the means and knowledge to do so. As a long-term investor, I would never invest in buying stocks of such companies.

I live in Portugal, where many state enterprises were privatized, but the monopolizing legal framework was kept essentially unchanged. The result was predictable: prices hiked while their services still continued to suck, in a bureaucratic sort of way. Meanwhile, via several direct or indirect legal regulations, competitors are still kept from menacing the dominant position of the privatized enterprises. This is a cruel form of crony capitalism, where the buyers of these enterprises hold tremendous privilege.

Unfortunately, the IMF-style “austerity packages” being imposed are nothing less than more of this.

D Storey July 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Not merely the legal privileges, I suspect, but taxpayer subsidy as well. Any government-chartered program will be kept afloat, and may even give the illusion of competitiveness, given substantial enough transfer payments.

pom-pom July 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I agree with privatizing USPS.

USPS should be sold off to private bidders. They (gov.) are screeching for cash, and it is nothing but a liability anyway. Granted, it isn’t much, but it is something. Heck even grant the buyer a 10y continued monopoly on first class until expiring the monopoly. The Constitution would probably need to (eventually) be amended.

Then we wouldn’t have to think about the post office anymore, unless it can actually sustain itself.

boniek July 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Privatization of USPS without abolishing its monopoly status on some mailing services would not be a good idea… Both are equally important.

Shay July 27, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Right, both are just different forms of the government propping it up: forcing citizens to fund it even if they don’t use it, and using using force against competitors.

Eric August 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm

They need to be more like UPS. Lower the price little bit. If any one is interested on making money on the internet, GO TO…. http://www.systemnewbiefree-ebook.info/ There is 10 e-books that are free. Thanks Eric

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