Evan Soltas
Jan 20, 2012

Going Postal

Government and creative destruction

The Postal Service is on its way out, ready or not, public or private. The debate over whether to continue Saturday delivery or not and about prepaying in retirement accounts obscures the fundamental question: does the U.S. need state provision of a postal service?

I grant that there was a compelling case for a postal service at the time of the founding--the Postmaster General was one of the original positions in the Cabinet--but I think that it's time to engage in a gradual winding-down of the state program, complemented by a broad and simultaneous privatization.

The case against this is extraordinarily weak, relying on demagogic rhetoric, non-sequiturs, and ignorance, and almost all of it comes from the public union interests of mail-carriers and other postal service employees, whose interest lies in protecting their jobs rather than taxpayer dollars or even the existence of a postal system, whether public or private. For the next five years, the federal government ought to take action as would a conservator appointed by a bankruptcy court.

Allow me to sketch out the way ahead: