End the Letter Delivery Monopoly: Sell The USPS

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

I am quite fond of the symbol of the mailman. Dressed in a crisp blue uniform, they evoke romantic memories of a small town I never lived in, and simpler times that are only simple in superficial retrospection.

But it is time to put the mailman to rest.

With proposals to limit deliveries to 5 days a week and to plans to close post offices around the country, it is becoming clearer that the government-run US postal service is an abject failure; that is clearer because most people recognize that even before the current financial climate the service provided by USPS was tolerable at best.

Would you pay $.44 to send a letter that may or may not arrive in a few days or send an email for free? Send a check or important document through the mail and pay through the nose for insurance or just pray it arrives, or would you use one of the private delivery services (UPS, DHL, FedEx)? Which organization do you trust to securely deliver your goods in a timely and efficient manner? Private companies have to answer to you, the consumer if they mess up; not months later at the next election, but the next time you need to send a letter or package. If a private company loses a package, charges too much, or has poor customer service, consumers will take their money to a competitor.  When USPS fails to “deliver” as a service provider, when consumers are dissatisfied, USPS might be mildly embarrassed, but they’ll keep taking your tax money—and probably charge more with the excuse of improving services.

Only in a government run monopoly industry can a service provider give less service and charge more (think public transportation).

The laws that give the government a monopoly on the delivery of letters are called “Private Express Statutes” or PES enacted in 1792. It is time to suspend these statues and sell off the government run post offices. Simply put, the only reason for the USPS to exist, the letter, has died—the internet killed it. When it comes to parcel delivery services, which the PES do not cover, there is no competition—private companies are far superior in quality, security, customer service, and price.  The billions of dollars spent on USPS is a complete waste of taxpayer money.

If political leaders truly want to have letter delivery services remain widely available to consumers (however small their numbers) the best option is to remove the government monopoly and let private carriers deliver letters.