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July 1994
Volume 12, Number 7

The Postal Crackup
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

Think of the U.S. Postal Service as a Soviet planning bureaucracy. The P.S. causes severe and systemic dislocations, imposes a terrible burden on enterprise and the citizenry, and is sometimes tyrannical. Also like Soviet planning, the longer it lasts, the worse it gets. It is doomed to fail and be dismantled.

In recent days, the Postal Service has sunk to new lows even by its own standards. In entire sections of Chicago, the mails have brokwn down. When they were putting out a fire in suburban Palatine, Ill., fire fighters discovered 4,000 pounds of mail in the apartment of Rovert Beverly, a 30-year old P.S. employee. Other bags of mail have been found hidden in rusted-out trucks or burned under bridges.

Oh yes, U.S. Postmaster General Marvin Runyon cracked down on mail supervisors in Chicago. They weren;t canned, as they would be in a free market. Marvelous Marv simply demoted the Chicago Three to slightly less plush jobs. Plant manager Celestine Green, who spent $200,000 un tax dollars remodeling her apartment while the mail went up in smoke, left for a mail job at a smaller plant outside Chicago. Customer "service" manager Ormer ROgers headed for Kansas City, Mo. And Chicago postmaster Jimmie Mason enjoys parity pay in Columbia, S.C.

Mr. Runyon described his action as "Operation Clean Sweep," and not only because the public's wallets were vacuumed. Just as in the Soviet system, the affair was scripted to appease an angry public. If these officials were incompetent, why foist them on other cities and suburbs? If they were typical, why target them at all?

Meanwhile, the new managers in Chicago have to deal with mailmen who won't deliver the mail, clearks who hate customers, government-dictated and therefore innapropriate technology, a perverse union, and a crazy system of pricing. Affirmative action and quotas habe killed what little merit there was left in the "merit system." In every big city, reports of doped up, drunk, napping, gambling, and sometimes murderous workers are rampant.

Recently, I received this letter:

    Our organization is a small one (about 1,000 members nationwide) composed mainly of American veterans of Scottish descent. Because of our small size and dispersion we are heavily dependent on prompt mailing and receipt of our quarterly journal The Patriot.

    Our current issue for spring 1994 has disappeared in the postal system in Atlanta, Georgia, with no hope of locating it. As a result we are having to reissue by first class mail which is expensive. And we cannot even recover the funds spent on the bulk mailing. This is not an isolated instance. I understand that it is the fourth issue to be lsot in the past three years.

In another case, businessman Arthur Levinas of Washington, D.C., is offering a $10,000 reward to find out what happened to the 200,000 letters he sent out at bulk-mail rates for $60,723.43. The letters never arrived. One report placed them in a dumpster.

The P.S. loses or throws out more that one billion letters a year. Call it theft, looting, or exploitation, but don't call it service.

In the private sector, absent government intervention, cleaning up this mess would be a breeze. In the government sector, however, it's a fog. More money won't do any good. What we lack is postal freedom.

As long as this remains so, the crisis can only get worse. Business and residential customers in the Bronx and Philadelphia complain that their mail deems to be delivered virtually at random. Catalog businesses hire private deliverers. But businesses don't have that option with letters, because federal law forbids "non-urgent" use of private mail.

Even though bulk mail is expensive, and businesses are required to presort it in zip sequence, the Postal Service treats it like trash, even when it doesn't use a dumpster. According to mailer surveys, even when third-class mail is delivered, it's late more than half the time by the P.S.'s own laughable standards.

The average customer doesn;t get exercised about late or missing bulk mail. But bulk mail accounts for 38% of the Postal Service's budget. As business scrambles to find new ways to reach customers, this revenue will decline. Add to that the increased use of faxes, e-mail, and private overnight packages, and the P.S. will soon face the biggest fiscal crisis in its history, And there's a limit to how much it can raise the price of first class stamps. Too much, and the revenue will decline.

Chaos is what to expect from a collapsing socialist system, Though it pretends to run on business principles, the Postal's Service's prices and wages are not market driven, but set by arbitrary edict. It is a model of government-controlled enterprise: wasteful, infuriating, and mean.

All of this is why we will eventually get private mail delivery in this country. The P.S.'s problems are unsolvable, and the public will eventually refuse to accept the abuse.

Of course, we can expect frantic resistence from Washington, D.C. Delivering the mail is the one function, besides sending soldiers to foreign lands and depreciating the dollar, over which the feds claim an absolute monopoly.

The time is coming when they'll have to fess up. They can't deliver the mail any more effectively that they can manage the economy, make everyone well-educated, or fill our hearts with love for all official victims.

Uncle Sam, take off the mailbag. It's time for capitalism to do the job.


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