Saturday, April 03, 2010
Megan McArdle's trip to the Post Office is hilarious. Apparently she may not be getting married after all.
Some things are just obvious, and one of them is this: The postal service is vestigial, or will be in some short span of years. Virtually everything it delivers is either easily available online (bills and catalogs), annoying (push advertising), or quaint (handwritten cards and letters, which are nice but hardly justify maintaining the institution). Since the post office cannot fail financially on its own, we need a plan to wind it up and shut it down. Being a creature of the government, that will take years longer than necessary, and in any case there are countless little towns in Iowa and Georgia and such that cling to their identity by virtue of their own post office. Too damned bad. Since we are apparently revolutionizing everything else in American government, let's score one for posterity by planning to wind down (or, if it can be done, privatize) the postal service by 2025 or 2030. Congress will then push out that date by another decade to win votes for some or another incumbent, but with focus you and I might actually outlive the damned thing. Hey, everybody needs a reason to live, and that is as good as any.
Two things: first, I have to wonder what the office's Postmaster said when she asked the clerk to speak with him/her on the matter.
Second, things haven't gotten any better. Some years ago, I mailed my PC (an 8086--I said it was some years...) to my new home as I was leaving the Philippines. I had carefully packed it, and I had bought insurance (postal insurance--another example of the reliability of government insurance) on it. When it arrived, it was damaged. As I filed my insurance claim with the local post office, I asked whether they wanted the package wrapping as evidence/proof of my claim. The post office rep said no, the wrapping wasn't necessary; I could toss it. Some weeks later, my claim was denied--I'd not provided them the wrapping as corroborating evidence of my claim. When the post office representatives--up to the district level--refused even to discuss the matter, I had to ask my Senator to get involved. He succeeded.
Where I live now, my mail is often (a couple times a year for the last 10 years) misdirected, and I get my neighbors' mail--I even got the mail of an unfortunate in another town whose house number happened to match mine. When I moved out of an apartment complex into my present house and filled the mail-forwarding forms for the USPS, I got my mail and the mail of the other two Hines still in the complex for three months. (OK, that was three things.)
I'm for losing this albatross. Section 8 of the Constitution says that the Congress has the power to "establish Post Offices;" it does not mandate that these be government entities, or even that they must be protected monopolies. Let the free market fill the niche. "USPS" has stood, for too many years, for "United States Postal Sewer."