Alex Schroeder
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) intention to cut Saturday delivery. I argued that this proposed cutback is consistent with the Postal Service’s status as a government-sanctioned monopoly: Instead of finding innovative ways to cut costs without sacrificing customer service, the USPS simply opted to strengthen its bottom line at the expense of the latter. By law, no other entity can deliver first-class mail, so why worry about keeping your customer base happy?

It now seems the proposal will not materialize. Congress passed legislation last month, which President Barack Obama signed, that obligates the USPS to maintain six-day delivery. The USPS may still alter the kind of mail it delivers on Saturday, with plans to eliminate first-class mail delivery and pick-up service while continuing delivery of packages and pharmaceutical drugs on Saturdays.

Officials with the USPS have warned that a $47 billion bailout, which taxpayers would fund, may soon be necessary if it is not given more freedom to change course. Everybody knows that the Postal Service needs to cut costs (or increase revenue), but Congress is standing in the way. This is all part of a broader pattern: It is precisely this inability and/or unwillingness to confront economic reality that made the sequester necessary.

One of two scenarios seems likely: Service will be cut to avoid bailing out the USPS or Saturday service will continue at the price of funding a bailout. This is a false alternative, one that the free market would not present. The proper course of action — privatizing and abolishing the monopoly status of the USPS — would yield a twofold benefit. Companies would compete with one another to not only keep their costs sustainable, but to continually improve their services. Moreover, if one such company failed to maintain financial solvency, it would simply go out of business. In short, these forces would function to keep customers satisfied without putting their property at risk (through taxpayer-financed bailouts).

The dilemma about the USPS is totally unnecessary and such situations can be solved if we keep the government out of business and out of our pockets.

About the Author

Alex Schroeder