No Saturday mail? What to do with the Postal Service — not really sure…

With word that the U.S. Postal Service might eliminate Saturday delivery, part of me says that maybe the now quasi-governmental entity may have outlived its usefulness, but part of me says we need it.

The problem I see is that our society depends upon a system in which citizens can be assured of having a means of personal and business and legal communication.

I recall the term “post roads” in the history of colonial America. Roads were built between towns for the primary purpose of delivering mail.

The Constitution provides for the federal government to run the postal system.

Back some time ago we moved from a pure government agency, the U.S. Post Office, to the Postal Service, which was to run almost like a private company, with the thought that it would be more efficient and cost effective. That has not necessarily happened.

The Postal Service faces competition from private companies, such as Fed-Ex and UPS, and there is nothing wrong with that if they can provide quicker and more cost efficient service, that is until you come up with, say legal requirements for communication that might be put upon a citizen, or even the ability to communicate with family.

I don’t like the idea of being forced to deal with a private money-making outfit for something that is essential to life. For example, if I am required by law to send some type of communication, say, my tax forms, I don’t want to be subjected to the whim of private enterprise, who can charge me anything and itself decide the delivery schedules.

My argument is probably breaking down here, because for one thing, that is what the Postal Service already does, raise rates and cut down on service (although it has to get government approval). A wholly private entity is probably more likely to be attune to customer needs or demands.

But it just seems to me that society ought to have an official way to be able to communicate and be able to run that system itself. Private businesses will always be available when we want special service.

Let me quote a letter from one Charles Amundson to the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The federal government’s two major responsibilities are defending the nation and delivering the mail.

“No one insists that the Defense Department break even. So why are so many people insisting the Postal Service do so?”

While I am not necessarily in agreement with the federal government priority ranking he suggests, I agree with the general message there. Why does a government service have to make money? I mean that’s why it is a government service — it provides us with something outside the normal market system, because it is something we all must have, rather than just a choice on the open market.

But the problem the Postal Service faces is that it continues to operate in the red and try to be half private and half public. So if faces the pressure of servicing the public at a level that meets everyone’s demand but cannot simply raise rates at the rate to match the demand.

Of course the Postal Serve has also seen declining volume because of e-mail.

I’m kind of stuck on this one. I mean in my own life the U.S. mail has become primarily the way we receive and pay bills and get our junk mail. I seldom — almost never — write a letter.

I tried to do some quick research to see exactly how the Postal Service gets its revenue, but could only find the Wikipedia entry that says it does not get direct government support. Nonetheless, I realize Uncle Sam has to underwrite it.

Yes, it may be time to rethink whether the government needs or should be in the postal business.

One thing retaining some government control does is keep a private entity from becoming a monopoly on our communication — although I realize the kind of communication the Postal Service handles is becoming outdated.

P.s.

The Postal Service wants to provide less service for more money. That is how private business often operates, so maybe it is doing something right.

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