We should abolish the US Postal Service

I had the unenviable task today of going to the post office to pick up two packages. There was a line about forty people long and several clerks behind the counters helping people with all the enthusiasm and speed of a drunken gorilla. One of the clerks was apparently only equipped to help people if they wanted to purchase money orders, which meant that one of the managers had to constantly prowl the line of patrons, yelling that they should go get in the special-line-for-purchasers-of-money-orders-only line, while another manager waddled around behind the counter chatting with the clerks and making them go even slower.

Why are we paying for this? Why don’t we just let private companies compete for this business? It seems like there would be two concerns:

  • What about areas or customers that are unprofitable to serve?
  • Will costs rise? (I hope so…see below)

I don’t really have a good answer for the first one, except to perhaps let companies bid on the right to run the mail for a particular region or something, with the requirement that they serve *all* customers in that area.

On the cost front, overall, I would expect costs to decline, as I’m sure that companies like UPS and FedEx are more efficient. However, they do have a profit motive, plus they wouldn’t have the subsidization that the USPS enjoys, so the price-per-mailing might rise. But isn’t this a good thing? Seriously, what percentage of your mail is actually useful stuff that you couldn’t replace with an email or downloadable PDF? 5%? 2%? Almost all of my mail is junk mail, bills (that I pay online), and statements that just get tossed in my records box. If the price of sending that stuff doubled or tripled, a lot of business models based on turning trees into physical spam would lose their viability overnight.

Think about it: how much money and energy is expended getting junk mail into our mailboxes?

Sigh…probably won’t happen anytime soon, though.

(Note: I didn’t have time for more than a cursory check to confirm that the USPS is funded by taxpayer dollars, and by how much, so please correct me if I’m wrong)