Should the government sell the Post Office? A recent Presidential Commission reported that although the Post Office recently raised its rates, it continues to lose over a billion dollars a year, and service continues to worsen. The commission recommended that it be turned over to a government-owned corporation. However, Mr. Kappel, head of the commission, privately confided that the best idea would be to sell the system to private enterprise.
Why would private enterprise be able to do a better job? Because there would be incentive where presently (government owned) there is none. The private owner would be in business to make a profit where presently the government has no intention—or reason for—seeking a profit. The private owner would have to pay all losses out of his own pocket, where today, anonymous taxpayers are forced to. The private owner and his regional administrators would have full managerial control, where today, Congress virtually runs the system, sight unseen. The private entrepreneur would face the constant threat of competition if he did not keep his prices low and his efficiency high, where the P.O. faces no such threat—it is against the law for anyone else to carry mail.
History provides examples of the superiority of private mail delivery. When the government first introduced transcontinental service, it discovered that it could not compete with the privately owned Pony Express. Congress eliminated this embarrassing competition by passing a law against it—one which still stands and has created the largest coercive monopoly in the world.
While the government continues a tight stranglehold on first class mail, its hold on the other classes is less tenuous.
1 It has failed to make money on any class but first (if that).
2 The present mail load is totally beyond the abilities of the P.O.
3 The precise wording of the law refers to "letters" only, leaving the P.O. legally open to competition in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th class mail. Newspaper delivery, messenger services, parcel post by UPS are examples of presently uncontested competition.
Last winter, when Thomas Murray, 43, and Darrel Hinshaw, 31, of Oklahoma City, organized the Independent Postal System of America, and began delivering 3rd class bulk mail, the government's objections were rather weak and perfunctory. (The postal authorities cited laws against the use of mailboxes by anyone but the P.O. But Murray calmly responded by delivering his circulars in plastic bags which were hung over the recipient's doorknob.)
Unchallenged, IPSA has already expanded into the cities of Tulsa, Okla, Ardmore, Okla., Dallas, and St. Louis. According to Time magazine, the company has already served over 110 firms in Oklahoma and expects $1,000,000 in business before 1969. A few of its customers include Goodyear, J.C. Penney, Western Auto, and Otasco. Hinshaw predicts that the service will be nation-wide within two years. Right now, offices are being opened in dozen of large cities on East and West coasts.
IPSA can attribute its phenomenal success thus far to its overwhelming superiority over the government's operation. While the government charges $42 to address and deliver 1000 pieces, Murray offers addressing and guaranteed 100% delivery for $25 per 1000, And while the U.S. Post Office delivers 3rd class bulk mail "when there is room in the mailbag," Murray and Hinshaw guarantee total delivery on whatever day the customer chooses.
If these private postmen can provide a amazingly superior service ("With us, third class is first class.") at half the price, yet still make a profit, what might they or a similar company do with first class, which is said to be the government's only money maker? Coast to coast daily delivery?
It is worth considering: if the mail moves the country, then it is only logical that the men most capable should be free to move the mail.
What are the moral arguments against government ownership? This question will be discussed next issue.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Why Not a Laissez Faire Postal System?".