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Abolish the Postal Service

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Doug Bandow has a great article over at Forbes entitled “The Post Office Is Broke: It’s Time to End Washington’s Postal Monopoly.” Bandow’s article provides an excellent case as to why the Postal Service’s monopoly over the delivery of first-class mail should be repealed and, even better, why the government shouldn’t even be in the mail-delivery business at all, notwithstanding the authority to do so provided in the U.S. Constitution.

This idea is not a new one. In fact, in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks, I recall that the idea of getting rid of the Postal Service or at least its monopoly status was a hot topic, given the chronic crises that were afflicting the Postal Service at that time as well. But the 9/11 attacks served to take that subject off the discussion board for the next 12 years.

Given the Postal Service’s latest financial crisis, it’s time to revisit the subject, which Bandow’s article does a great job in doing.

It’s difficult to understand why the American people tolerate the Postal Service, given America’s heritage of private property and free markets.

Keep in mind, after all, that the Postal Service is nothing more than a socialist institution — that is, an economic enterprise run by the federal government. It’s no different in principle from the state-owned enterprises that are owned and operated by the Chinese communist government or those that were state-owned and state-operated in the Soviet Union.

The common denominators of state-owned and state-run enterprises are inefficiencies, poor products and services, corruption, financial losses, and customer abuse. All those things describe state-owned enterprises in communist countries. They also describe the Postal Service.

What Americans should be asking is: Why should the government be involved in the delivery of mail at all? Is this a legitimate function of government in a society that purports to be based on opposition to socialism and in favor of free enterprise?

But there is another aspect to this: the monopoly aspect. The Postal Service uses the law to protect itself from competition. That is, if someone in the private sector seeks to compete against the Postal Service, the federal government will shut down that competitor immediately, owing to the special status that the Postal Service has as a monopolist.

In other words, it’s theoretically possible for the government to own and operate an enterprise that competes against similar types of businesses in the private sector. That’s objectionable under anti-socialism principles.

But the federal government has done more than that with the Postal Service. It’s has provided the Postal Service with an exalted position by granting it monopoly status — a status that protects this government enterprise from competition from the private sector.

Thus, one option is simply to abolish the Postal Service and completely open up the delivery of first-class mail to the private sector. That’s the preferred option, given that government has no business running an enterprise that rightfully belongs in the private sector.

The second option is to leave the Postal Service in existence and just repeal its monopoly status. That would enable private businesses to enter into competition with the Postal Service. Of course, for all practical purposes, this would probably bring about a quick end to the Postal Service, given the fact that private firms would most likely run it out of business very quickly.

Government-owned economic enterprises have no place in a free society and an economic system based on private property, free enterprise, and free markets. And neither do monopolies. It’s time to put the Postal Service out of its misery. It’s time to rid our nation of this huge socialist albatross and its privileged, monopolistic status in American society.

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.