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Here’s One Solution to the Post Office’s Problems

Gerard Magliocca

Gerard N. Magliocca is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Professor Magliocca is the author of three books and over twenty articles on constitutional law and intellectual property. He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford, his law degree from Yale, and joined the faculty after two years as an attorney at Covington and Burling and one year as a law clerk for Judge Guido Calabresi on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Professor Magliocca has received the Best New Professor Award and the Black Cane (Most Outstanding Professor) from the student body, and in 2008 held the Fulbright-Dow Distinguished Research Chair of the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, The Netherlands. He was elected to the American Law Institute (ALI) in 2013.

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12 Responses

  1. Shag from Brookline says:

    Bring back the “chain letter.”

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    I don’t think there’s anything so special about the experience that Fedex couldn’t deliver the same experience, if freed of the law prohibiting them from carrying 1st class mail.

    The bottom line for me is that 95% or better of my mail goes straight from the mail box to the garbage can. Something that only happens because the rates for junk mail aren’t market driven. And I’m paying for the privilege of having more trash to deal with.

    If we can’t kill off the post office, despite all the evidence that the market would supply those services it delivers which are actually needed, then government agencies really are the only form of immortality.

  3. Matt says:

    As a solution to the post office’s problems it’s silly. (Especially if the problem for the post office is really an unreasonable and fairly new requirement about funding pensions, as was suggested in the last thread. No one has addressed that yet.) But it is true that getting a real letter from someone is pretty nice, especially these days when it’s rare, too.

    As for Fed-ex doing better, I’ll repeat that, for the services where they directly compete against the post office, I pretty much always prefer the post office, and find fed-ex to have quite bad service. I see no reason to think they’d be better if they had less competition.

  4. Shag from Brookline says:

    Brett’s simplicity:

    “If we can’t kill off the post office, despite all the evidence that the market would supply those services it delivers which are actually needed, ….”

    assumes but fails to demonstrate such evidence, especially the cost to the user, competition, compliance with regulations, assurances of accountability, etc. Alas, Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the Constitution needs champions like the support the Second Amendment got. Where are constitutional originalists on this? If Clause 7 has become obsolete because it is no longer profitable, what about highways and other infrastructure related to mail and other forms of communication? What might Brett’s hero Justice Thomas say about this?

  5. Aaron says:

    The Post Office’s pleas for federal funding certainly ring hollow when it has so heavily subsidized direct mailing campaigns in recent years.

    Perhaps they could start charging $10 per month to opt out of junk mail. I’d happily pay.

  6. WayneK says:

    The problem with the post office is that they are currently un-business friendly. I believe with two major changes they could overwhelm UPS, FedEx, AirBorne, etc.

    The two changes I’m talking about are better/easier insurance pay off policies, and a better method of tracking.

    In my experiences most small business owners who refuse to use USPS name the following reasons as why:

    Their insurance claims take much too long. First you need to wait about a month after your package went missing before you are even eligible to file a claim. Then if you are lucky enough to receive any money from your claim, it is only because you had to wait an additional month, two months or even more time after your claim was filed. Most small business owners can’t have their inventories tied up for that long or have angry clients waiting for their goods/refund. In stead the small business owner needs to go out of pocket to satisfy their client’s needs, this is a cost that not only ties up inventories but capital as well and why may have turned to UPS’s accountability. If the Post Office wants to compete for the small business dollar their Insurance needs to pay out faster!!!

    Tracking is nearly useless, and is only available on certain services, when a client calls and asks where is my order, they don’t want to hear “I’m Not Sure” they want tracking info. If the Post office were to upgrade these two services I believe more business owners would be willing (if not overjoyed) to ship via USPS.

    In the current e-business world we live in there is no reason the USPS should be struggling, fix the problems with business owners and profits should be achievable.

  7. Brett Bellmore says:

    Shag, I’ll believe private enterprise can’t compete with the post office, when they dare permit it to try, and it fails. The first class mail monopoly amounts to an open admission that they can’t afford to go head to head with for profit business.

  8. Shag from Brookline says:

    Perhaps Brett would propose privatization of ALL government services – not just the post office – to permit enterprise to give it a try, with the safety net that if private enterprise fails, then the government can take it back. Brett singles out the post office now, but he won’t rest until ….

    By the way, with encouragement from Brett, perhaps private enterprises will come up with proposals for replacing the postal system, including costs, etc. If there were competing bids by private firms, then perhaps we could examine them to see if private enterprise can go “head to head” with the postal system in serving the public.

    Do I have to remind Brett that back of the envelope kitchen table household budget simplicity doesn’t work with the complexity of a 300+ million population for the delivery of mail? Or would Brett prefer an amendment to Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the Constitution, including its elimination?

    As to first class mail monopoly, is that an originalist view? As I noted in a comment on an earlier thread on the post office, there was the challenge of Lysander Spooner back in the 1840s when postal rates were quite high. The rates came down significantly, as a result of which Spooner could no longer compete effectively whether or not Clause 7 is indeed exclusive.

  9. Shag from Brookline says:

    Jon Stewart’s “Postbusters” segment on the Daily Show last night includes a response to Sen. McCaskill, something about Jewish mothers standing up and applauding her for laying guilt on their children.

  10. Brett Bellmore says:

    Do I have to remind Shag that FEDEX is world-wide? The scale of US mail delivery is not vast compared to the scale of what many corporations do. And a free market mail delivery system would, frankly, be delivering a lot less volume, since it wouldn’t make economic sense for a private company to subsidize the delivery of trash to everyone’s homes.

  11. Shag from Brookline says:

    Do I have to remind Brett that FEDEX does not have a proposal on the table for taking over the post office? Congress may need to act and perhaps develop a request for proposals with certain requirements that the public could comment on to assure a well functional postal system with accountability. If Brett thinks that “free market” conditions would suffice, then he is back in his kitchen with his simpletonian back of the envelope household budgeting. (How about a “free market” concept for other government services?) Might a “public utility” concept be involved with appropriate regulations? And that “trash” may be the “treasure” for the operation of certain capitalist enterprises.

  12. Michael Teter says:

    Anything missing from President Obama’s exhortation today in Richmond?

    “I’m asking you to lift up your voices, not just here in Richmond—anybody watching, listening, following online, I want you to call, I want to email, I want you to Tweet. I want you to Fax, I want you to visit, I want you to Facebook. Send a carrier pigeon.”

    Senator McCaskill must be fuming.

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