When I first began studying free market economics, it felt exciting to find the faulty assumptions in news articles. I assumed they mattered.
Now, I don’t even bother, unless someone refers an article to me, like this one: The Post Office is not broke — it hasn’t taken any of our tax money since 1971.
The reason I don’t bother, is because correcting the media, even a very small part of it, is a lifetime of work. Furthermore, I don’t even think they’re trying to be factual, or logical, or accurate. There is so much smug, hysterical, illogical leftist propaganda that I sometimes believe their strategy is to create reality by repeating it, and simply drowning out dissenting voices.
For whatever it’s worth, I make my case:
1) The article starts by pointing out how few things cost 50 cents or less and then triumphantly declares that a stamp is one of them. This does not prove that the Post Office isn’t broke. It’s an empty jingle. Many things cost less than 50 cents, like pens and pencils, but they are packaged for convenience. Many things are also free, like email or online translation tools.
The mention of prices would be a great segue into a discussion of WHY nothing costs less than 50 cents anymore. I’ll only say that the reason is because government is destroying our money. It’s easier to debase a currency than it is to tax. To do this effectively, you need to resort to force against people who attempt to use something other than the government currency. Debasing only works where people are FORCED to use paper money.
2) The article then then says “UNPROFITABLE. So what?” I think the author just punted the title of his article. When you’re unprofitable, and you’ve spent all your reserves, you are broke. That’s the definition of the word. He writes that the FBI, CDC, FDA, State Department, and Pentagon don’t worry about profit either. I think all these agencies are disasters as well.
Yahoo News reported that this year, the post office is losing $8 Billion: http://news.yahoo.com/never-write-more-well-hardly-anyone-does-173946650.html.
You may think that losing money is inevitable because the task of delivering little pieces of paper is so essential and complex, but this history of the post office is the history of using brute legal force to put cheaper, more efficient, for profit delivery companies out of business:
– In 1971, a federal district court prohibited a private firm from carrying Christmas cards in Oklahoma on the basis that the plaintiffs, a postal employees union, suffered ‘significant loss of work time, overtime, employment benefits. . and morale.’ The court concluded that private delivery of Christmas cards would be a ‘widespread public nuisance.’ The result was that the public suffered slower service and higher costs to support postal workers’ ‘morale.’
- In 1976 in New York, a pack of Cub Scouts tried to raise money by delivering Christmas cards: Postal Service lawyers ordered them to stop, and threatened the ten-year-olds with a $76,500 fine. A New York Times editorial regretted that the Postal Service’s carriers were not as fast as its lawyers.
- In 1978, the P.H. Brennan Hand Delivery Service offered same-day delivery of mail in Rochester, New York, for 10 cents a piece; the Postal Service could not guarantee overnight delivery even for 15 cents. The Brennan Service operated during snowstorms (when the Postal Service did not even try to deliver), never lost a letter, and never had a complaint. When U.S.P.S. attorneys closed in on the Brennans, Rochester lawyers provided them with a free legal defense. But the Postal Service persuaded a judge to issue a ‘cease and desist’ order on account of the ‘threat to postal revenues.’ (http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj15n1-1.html)
It is illegal to do for profit, what the government loses $8 billion / year doing.
3) The article uses government failure to criticize free enterprise. It says the Nixon presidency in 1971 created some sort of reform (details unspecified), which apparently was free market reform (this part is important), and it failed . . . therefore . . . . . . wait for it . . . . . . . . the free market doesn’t work.
As you can see from the above examples, the government was still threatening private individuals with prison. When you’re still threatening to put people in jail for offering a service, then the reform is NOT a “free market” reform.
Also, pay attention to the logic. Any failure which even has the name free market associated with it is used without examination to condemn the free market. Forget the fact that the reform had nothing to do with allowing people to offer a service for profit. On the other hand, colossal failures of government are met with profound analysis and tinkering and promises that things will be better after a little more work, a little more power is given to the agency, a little more taxes are collected. The article ends on such a note, suggesting changes in schedules, a Postal Banking System, wine delivery, sale of fishing licenses.
4) “Since 1971, the postal service has not taken a dime from taxpayers.” Also, “the Service actually produced a $700 million operational profit [time period unspecified]“ I don’t understand this. Yahoo News reported that this year, the post office is losing $8 Billion: http://news.yahoo.com/never-write-more-well-hardly-anyone-does-173946650.html. The New York Times reported losses of $6.5 billion in the first half of 2011: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/19/opinion/nocera-free-the-post-office.html.
This newletter is L-Y-I-N-G.
5) The article goes on to to espouse about the general importance of of the post office, it’s proud history, and schemes which will definitely, gloriously, inevitably restore the service to it’s rightful glory.
My reaction is this: If you insist on taxing me to fund this antiquated, inefficient, bureaucratic leviathan, at least stop threatening to put people in jail who want to deliver little pieces of paper for profit.
(FED EX and UPS are only allowed to deliver packages. If you bring them a letter, they’ll immediately put it in a package. Even permission for this reckless privilege — a for profit package delivery — was hard fought. Thankfully, our overlords allowed it.)