Who Needs The Postal Service?

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 2 2012 2:13 PM

The Importance of Universal Flat-Rate Mail Delivery Should Be Argued, Not Asserted

I don't particularly disagree with David Dayen's rundown of possible solutions to the US Postal Service's financial woes. But I'm not really sure about his conclusion that "[t]urning the still-important necessity of delivering mail over to the private market with no oversight may be the best solution for US finances, but clearly the worst from many other perspectives."

What's so important about it? Obviously it's very important that people be able to get stuff delivered to their house. But there's no reason to think that absent a public entity this would suddenly become impossible. Similarly, I agree with Duncan Black that the culture war aspect to the Postal Service controversy in which people deride USPS and sing the praises of FedEx is dumb. The Postal Service, in my opinion, does a really fantastic job of doing its job—namely providing guaranteed six days a week flat rate mail delivery. But when he says "right now the country still needs universal flat rate postal service" I'm left to wonder: Why? Why would it be so terrible to put up with differential pricing, or with a situation where some parts of the country had less frequent delivery?

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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