How can Uncle Sam run national healthcare when it can’t even run a mail delivery system? This week Postmaster General John E. Potter informed congressional staffers, postal union officials and others in Washington that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is bankrupt and will not survive unless it is given greater flexibility in determining delivery schedules, price increases, and labor costs by lawmakers, postal regulators, and unions. The remarks were sparked by the fact that the USPS lost $3.8 billion last year and is projected to lose another $238 billion in the next ten years if changes are not made. These figures notwithstanding, it is amazing to me that in 2010 we still have a government run postal system in America. Isn’t it time to privatize the Post Office?
Article II Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power “To establish post offices and post roads. When the Constitution was ratified America was a very different place than it is today. We were a very rural society with many of our countrymen residing in far off lands to the west. Mail carriers provided the primary mode of delivery for important letters, documents, and packages. In their wisdom, the Founders realized that the safest, most effective way for these items to get to their recipients was through a government run system.
But things change and today America is an incredibly advanced country. We are a technologically savvy nation with websites, email, scanners, text messaging, and other communication devices. In fact, the Postal Service’s financial woes stem from competition caused by technology. Last year, the USPS experienced a 13 percent drop in mail volume primarily due to more people using email to communicate than snail mail. Additionally, companies like UPS and Fed Ex do an excellent job of delivering urgent letters and packages not just in the U.S. but around the globe. Lastly, some will argue that folks in rural areas will not be serviced if mail delivery became totally private. But, this would affect very few people in modern America. Even then the market should decide if a location is worthy of a private mail delivery system. If the answer is no (no entrepreneur comes forward to provide the service) then those residents could relocate.