Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Break up the Postal AT&T

Jerry Stratton, October 11, 2013

Three Mailboxes

The Hi-Lites (yellow box) and the Muskegon Chronicle (white box) both provide boxes, because they can’t rely on the other being there, and they are barred by the government from using the box paid for and installed by the homeowner specifically for the purpose of receiving paper deliveries.

On Facebook recently I saw a “Save the Post Office” link that read, “Sign the petition: Don’t let Congress end door-to-door mail service” and added the comment “This would be horrible! How would elderly people get their mail?”

The answer, of course, is through door-to-door mail service. The proposed bill requires the USPS to continue door-to-door delivery at no cost in cases of physical hardship. See page 9, lines 8 through 18.

The bill doesn’t end door-to-door delivery; it allows the Post Office to choose where to provide it, as long as they provide door-to-door delivery to people who need it.

Further, though, we have no idea what great things would replace the United States Postal Service if we just let great things happen. The law currently bans any normal letter service except through the USPS, and it also bans access to mailboxes by anyone except the USPS. The USPS has its own police force, the United States Postal Inspection Service, to enforce the USPS monopoly in letter mail.

The USPS ruthlessly suppresses any competition, and rather than embrace the process that gave us innovations like overnight delivery, we cower in fear of losing the wonders of the USPS. We fear something that we won’t lose, and can’t know the wonders we’ll gain through competition.

The same arguments against letting businesses compete with the USPS were used to argue against letting businesses compete with AT&T: the government has to ban competitors because competitors will only skim the cream of lucrative markets, abandoning the poor. A precious national resource will be destroyed. They already provide the cheapest service possible. There is no way competition can reduce prices. It will only increase prices by fragmenting the market.

Osborne Model 1

The iPhone from the alternative universe where AT&T kept their government monopoly. If your car battery runs down this iPhone has a built-in jump-starter. (Image courtesy Johann H. Addicks, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0)

In fact, after ending AT&T’s government-enforced monopoly we have far better telephone service available for even less money than in the days of the monopoly. Service is so inexpensive that even the poor have access to phone technology unthinkable before opening telephone service to competition.

Anyone in America who wants one can get a tiny phone to carry easily outside their home, paying no monthly fees, paying only for what they need, and at lower prices than before the government monopoly ended. Even the most basic phones combine voice, voice mail, and text messaging.

Certainly we have lost things. It is increasingly difficult to find a pay phone. But that’s because no one is looking. Everyone has a cell phone. And it’s increasingly common to drop land lines. Because something better has arrived. Something foreseen only in science fiction, and even then only dimly caught.

What wonders await if we let the same thing happen with letter delivery? What would the people who created Google Voice do if they were allowed to get into physical mail delivery, for example? We don’t know. But we do know it will be created in competition to win us as customers.

  1. <- The moose should have told you
  2. Catch-22 government ->