Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Why Socialism Doesn't Work (a case study)

by Paul Gessing

The United States Postal Service is a truly socialist enterprise. Anyone who has to deal with the Post Office on a regular basis, especially if you have to go to the actual offices themselves, is aware of this. Of course, as has been well-publicized in recent months, the Post Office now faces massive financial problems.

Of course, in a socialist agency such as the Post Office, politics plays an incredibly large role. As this article from today's New York Times illustrates, when it comes to cost savings, politics makes increased efficiency very difficult to achieve. With USPS facing a $6.5 billion deficit, "the agency continues to spend $46,000 a year for a challenging small-plane route that serves about 20 addresses secluded in the roadless wilderness of the northern Rocky Mountains."

Inevitably, the story goes on "John E. Potter, the postmaster general, began getting calls, letters and e-mail messages from the owners of ranches on the river. People showed up on Capitol Hill in rafting sandals and cowboy boots.

Then, just before Mr. Potter was about to face a conference call with the four members of Idaho’s Congressional delegation, he decided that the high-flying weekly route through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, in place for more than half a century and the last air route into a wilderness area in the continental United States, should best be left as is."

So, 20 or so people receiving a massive government subsidy succeeded in killing a reform that would have saved this so-called business money in it's ongoing effort to break even. A private company, on the other hand, could easily make the decision to not serve such high-cost customers. Unfortunately, America is moving rapidly towards greater politicization of health care, energy policy, and manufacturing to name just a few areas of the economy that will become much less efficient under government control.

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If only Congress would kick in public money to compensate the system for delivering junk mail to bad routes. It refuses to, however, because of the Congressionally granted monopoly it suppossedly enjoys is said to be compensation enough. It should voluntary give up its monopoly status and dump those routes.

# posted at by Michael Bindner

Instead of blaming people that live in remote areas for the Post Office's troubles, would the city folks sacrifice their Saturday deliveries to save a lot more money? From our point of view we subsidize your home delivery. The fact is - the mail contract doesn't come close to paying the expense of our mail delivery, our freight charges make up the difference. Of course no one looks at the fact that Federal and State "addresses" in the wilderness would have to pay more to contract their mail delivery. Unfortunately the NYT story didn't cover all the facts.

# posted at by TLM

Michael, why would you advocate spending tax money to help deliver junk mail? I agree with you, eliminating the postal monopoly would solve the problem.

Regarding TLM's point, I don't understand how urban postal customers are being subsidized by rural users. I have no problem with rural folks paying extra, but the problem is that the Post Office is a creature of the government. I'm not trying to be hard on folks living in ruaral areas, just that we all should pay a market price.

# posted at by Paul Gessing

The point of failure is being missed. The cost of delivery to every address in the United States is not the issue. The Postal service is the only delivery method available to the entire country. UPS and FEDEX do not deliver to every address. And as many people would find the USPS delivers the "last mile" for ups and FedEx. The post office was created by the government to ensure commerce is available to everyone not just the people in large metro areas. Know back to the issue, the post office has automated extensively; this action would seem to reduce employment numbers. But if the news media would read just about every postal study they would notice that management has grown in numbers. These individuals are labeled "AES" in the postal service. As the last round of cuts, AES individuals that had positions eliminated were just given a new title and remained management. All cuts are factious and the numbers remain high for unqualified and under worked managers. Read the badge at any office and see the one smoking outside is not craft but management. The other issue is in the craft (labor), there are jobs like "elevator operator" still employed and standing in an elevator to push the floor button for you. I understand that 80 years ago elevators were difficult to operate, but today $25 per hour to select the floor for you is as bad as the AES musical chairs. Some may say prove it; I say show the 15% reduction in management in the unemployment line.

# posted at by Stefan Ronnkvist

Paul, In writing your article you neglected to mention that these 20 people only receive mail ONCE a week. Those of you in the big citites would surely scream bloody murder if your postman only came by once a week to pick up the mail you're not sending. The Post Office is probably one of the best examples of Democracy at work; same service, same price, no matter who you are. Those in more remote areas help to support big cities thru their purchases of goods and services. Start cutting those life lines and connections and everybody looses.

# posted at by Jeff

I think what TLM was implying is that parcel post subsidizes small letter deliveries.

Neumatic tube technology could automate most human deliveries of bills and letters, if indeed these are still done with paper. I underground electric cars are developed, you could include a tube system with package deliveries in automated cars to a lock box. When that day comes, no one will deliver anything using a driver.

This is about the time that everything is automated and the workers paradise (or non-workers paradise) is in full force due to abundance.

# posted at by Michael Bindner