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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9073/state-death-and-poverty/

State = Death and Poverty

December 9, 2008 by

UPDATE: The API works again. The worldwide freakout will now subside.

No post can possibly live up to that headline, and you might think what I’m reporting here is no big deal, but it truly is. Here’s the situation.

Websites interface with institutions and offsite data through what is called an API, a widget that transmits data on demand. It is through an API that Mises.org is able to pull shipping prices from the US Postal Service.

Every provider has its own API, including UPS and FedEx and everyone else.

Last week we began to notice some strange errors in the logs. Mises.org was unable to pull USPS data. We checked to make sure that we had the most up-to-date API. We did. The problem was that it wasn’t working. The post office screwed up.

And not only Mises.org is affected. Every web store on the planet that depends on USPS shipping prices was affected by the screw up. We had to disable it on Mises.org, lest the store slow to a crawl. It was 10 days ago that we started to notice problems.Things only got worse until it went completely kaput. There is still no fix. We can’t fix it. No third part can. Only the post office can fix it. Are they? Not yet. Will they? At some point, perhaps. But USPS is giving no ETA of a fix.

Meanwhile, the only workaround is to invent some flat rate prices and plug them in by hand. That’s what people are doing all over the web – thanks to the blasted government and its amazing incompetence.

Here it is the busiest shopping week of the year in the middle of a recession, and the post office flakes out, and fundamentally! This is astounding to me. What it means is that without private shipping services, online commerce would have pretty much come to a halt.

Think about what that means and extend the example. Thank goodness for free enterprise. Put the whole of society under the control of the state and the entire economy would eventually become one big broken and unfixable API disaster.


J Cortez December 9, 2008 at 10:16 am

I hate the post office.

I read somewhere that Fed Ex ‘s biggest customer is the post office. I thought to myself, that’s pretty stupid. I mean, is it really necessary to have a unreliable and inefficient middleman that has nothing but bad attitude and bad service?

Sometimes, waiting in the long lines of the USPS, I imagine a world where mail was delivered by private companies. I see pickup boxes everywhere; shipping stores that are open 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year; reliable mail that a customer could track without problem; internet support; employees that aren’t rude and aren’t prone to go on a shooting rampage; etc, etc.

I wonder how much the cost of a letter really is? Without the losses and without the subsidies, what is the true market rate? Is it less expensive? Or is it more expensive? (If I had to guess, I would say more expensive, but the market wold provide much better service for the price.) Too bad we won’t know anytime soon.

hsk December 9, 2008 at 10:36 am

I ordered a book online last week and was given a USPS tracking number by email. For two days the tracking number was useless, the last update is now four days old. Does it really take the Post Office four days to move a small package from one side of a building to another or are they really that inefficient in updating their tracking system?

Frank December 9, 2008 at 10:41 am

Imagine all the people…being able to call the USPS and cancel servce. No more pounds and pounds of unwanted junk mail delivered to my house inbox. You might say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

rube goldberg December 9, 2008 at 11:15 am

why is the mises.org store using a state-owned enterprise as a shipper anyway? why not UPS or FedEx?

Bruce Koerber December 9, 2008 at 3:21 pm

These are windows into the oppressive times ahead. The collapse of the governement lapdogs will spill over and many, many things taken for granted will become difficult.

When Peter Schiff talks about the U.S. reverting into a third world economy this is what he is talking about.

Eric Hood December 9, 2008 at 4:08 pm

This might explain the postage bill on an order I was contemplating. $240 worth of books and a $260 postage fee. I decided to wait a bit.

greg December 9, 2008 at 4:43 pm


They use USPS because it is a lot cheaper for packages under 4 pounds.

I switched to USPS during the last UPS strike and never went back. Cut my shipping cost by 25%!

And Eric, the shipping and handling charge is billed to you by the company selling you your books, not USPS. Shipping and handling is a profit center for most companies.

Caveman December 9, 2008 at 5:58 pm

To be fair, the USPS doesn’t receive state funding. Of course, its state-sanctioned monopoly more than makes up for the absence of direct funding. Nonetheless, the USPS does manage to pay for itself which is more than can be said for most state entities.

J Cortez, USPS contracts all of its express delivery services to FedEx. That’s why it is FedEx’s largest customer. You make a good point about why they bother acting as middle-man, but in some areas it’s difficult to get service from UPS or FedEx directly. The USPS has infrastructure almost everywhere in the US.

jeffrey December 9, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Just FYI, Greg above is all wet. The reason we need an API because we accepted their charges and pass them through. The idea that shipping is a “profit center” is a joke. We charge nothing for shipping. We only act as an interface for others. So far as I know, everyone does this.

If you have any questions, let me know. Just know that what greg said above reveals amazing lack of knowledge.

Peter December 9, 2008 at 9:39 pm

This might explain the postage bill on an order I was contemplating. $240 worth of books and a $260 postage fee. I decided to wait a bit.

FWIW, my last shipment of books (from Amazon): US$71.18 in books, US$29.94 in shipping (that’s international, unexpedited, I think they say 4-6 weeks delivery). They arrived in 10 days, and I saved US$45.60 compared to local prices(!!).
(That was a particularly expensive order, in terms of shipping, though: I usually go through the checkout process five or six times before actually placing a final order, to figure out the best subset of books to minimize shipping – I typically pay about 20-22% in shipping charges from Amazon, and wait if I can’t manage that…I wish there was some way to see the final price without having to go through to the last page prior to confirmation repeatedly! The Mises Store is usually much more expensive for international shipping, unfortunately)

Eric Hood December 9, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Hi Greg.

I know the postage is charged by the sender. I was making an assumption that if there is an error in the API perhaps my postage bill was a little larger than it needed to be.

I am in Australia so if necessary I shall wait until my dollar improves versus the US dollar.

Jeffrey Tucker December 9, 2008 at 9:56 pm

Knock on wood, this seems to work again.

Eric Hood December 9, 2008 at 10:09 pm

Hi Peter. I get MUCH better service from the Mises store than I do Amazon.

Items from amazon seem to take 4-8 weeks even when I upgrade the shipping. My friends all get better service so I may just be unlucky. 3 weeks is the most an order from Mises has taken, that was not expedited and was about 10 books.

I do the checkout shuffle too.

DM December 11, 2008 at 11:31 pm

someone calling himself “caveman” writes: “To be fair, the USPS doesn’t receive state funding. Of course, its state-sanctioned monopoly more than makes up for the absence of direct funding. Nonetheless, the USPS does manage to pay for itself which is more than can be said for most state entities.”

True, but that doesn’t get you very far. I’m sure if I got the federal government to pass a law saying I was the only car dealer allowed to sell any car, I could make a profit too. If I was the only news organization, or doctor, or lawyer, or contractor, or architect, or anything.

Being able to make a profit by threatening your competition with federal prison isn’t something to brag about.

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