The Post Office
posted by Gerard Magliocca
One of the most eye-opening experiences that I had as a lawyer was when I worked on the postal rate administrative process. Hundreds of hours spent by many organizations writing briefs to the Postal Rate Commission arguing why the price of stamps should go up two cents instead of three cents. If you want to convert someone into a libertarian, this is excellent shock therapy.
As the Post Office is now on the brink of insolvency, it’s worth thinking about what should be done with the mail service. One approach involves slimming down its costs. For example, we could close post offices, reduce the salaries of employees, and abolish Saturday delivery. (Raising stamp costs will probably just drive more business to FedEx and UPS, but maybe I’m wrong about that.) Another thought is that we should turn the Post Office into something that only delivers mail to rural or hard-to-reach places where private mail service would be costly for the poor. It would still lose money, but it would lose a lot less money. Everyone else would have to rely on private firms for mail. Folks involved in direct mail (catalogs, advertisements, etc.) would hate this change, but they are currently being subsidized for no good reason by taxpayers through cheap postage.
The problem, of course, is that the Post Office employs a lot of people, and thus a broad restructuring of the service would be very painful. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a way to make the service profitable.