How Postal Services Should run in a Free South

Here we are in one of, if not the most, technologically advanced lands on the face on the earth and yet we continue to use an anachronistic postal system. The biggest step we've taken in getting away from the idea that the government should deliver the mail is that the U.S. Postal System (USPS) became a "private" organization. It is hardly private since the USPS has to ask to raise rates, and being a virtual monopoly guarantees heavy government oversight.

Mail delivery is one of the few communications services in America that has gotten consistently worse over time. The speed of electronic messages has risen 1,000-fold over the past 20 years, and the cost has declined to almost zero. If only we could say the same about the USPS. As recently as the 1950s mail was delivered twice a day and right to your door for a nickel. Now mail is delivered once a day (and a letter may take a week to get across town), and they charge 33 cents per normal letter. And the Postal Service is going through their annual ritual of asking for a rate hike, this time asking for 35 cents.

Why does the Postal Service provide such lousy service? It is rather simple actually. Our government long ago granted the USPS a legal monopoly. Our Founding Fathers thought postal delivery was an inherent function of government. Hence, there are now laws on the books called the Private Express Statutes that say no private entity can deliver a "letter" for less than $3 or twice as much as the cost of a first-class letter.

Now, one would think that laws would be passed to protect consumers, but whose interest does that law protect? Certainly not the consumer's. Isn't the federal government in the middle of a major assault on Microsoft to prevent a monopoly? Didn't the government bust up AT&T to promote better services at a better price? By the way, long distance services are better and cost less now than prior to the break up, and the projection is that eventually long distance phone service will eventually end up costing the same as e-mail: zero.

The Postal Service says they bind our nation together and therefore must have monopoly protection. Only the USPS provides universal service to the nation at one uniform cost, or so they would have you believe. While this sounds good, it really means that we get universally lousy service at a uniformly excessive cost. The justification for a postal monopoly is long gone. Nowadays, Federal Express and UPS will deliver to any address in the country, and with a guarantee of the time to deliver. The USPS's express service is so full of holes that there are no real guarantees and there are locations where the express service is not available. Monopolies gouge consumers, and nobody does it better than the USPS.

Thought must be given to what system will be used in a free and independent South. The pro-consumer solution is as plain as day. Have no "officially" established postal system. Let everyone from Federal Express to the local "Mom and Pop" start ups deliver letters for any price they wish. Like any business in a free market society, competition will lower prices and improve services. How fast do you think you would get served at your local post office if the clerks knew that you could take your business next door if they kept offering the same slow and surly service? If postal workers knew that their jobs depended on providing fast and friendly service, they would really move their tails, and they'd do it with a smile.

As electronic messaging and electronic bill-paying/banking continues to make advancements in our society, the competition among mail carriers will be for larger packages such as home delivery of items bought on the Internet. The USPS is on its way out and Dixie shouldn't consider any formal replacement of this wasteful, bloated organization that is losing its relativity to a modern Southland.

Jeff Adams
December 5, 1999