Posts tagged USPS

Column on Is The US Government Against Monopoly?

Is The US Government Anti-Monopoly?

Tibor R. Machan

So you may have heard that the US Federal Government is opposed to monopolies and that is why the Department of Justice has its various rules against them. All those antitrust provisions are supposed to keep competition going and prevent any business from becoming the only one around to serve customers. Right, you have heard this — I certainly have.

Only it isn’t true. The federal government is in fact dedicated to preventing competition one place where it could come in very handy. This is in the service of delivering first class mail! No one else is permitted by the government to do this apart from the United States Postal Service. So when one finds that this service doesn’t quite manage to suit one’s postal needs, there isn’t a thing to be done about it apart from hiring a helicopter and paying thousands of dollars to get some letter delivered. But, oops, even that is unavailable since if you were to start such a helicopter service, it would be illegal! The USPS simply forbids anyone else from providing first class mail service to us, period. No, Fed Ex or UPS isn’t allowed — they may only serve us with parcel and not with first class deliveries.

And the USPS’s monopoly isn’t a very nice one either. (Of course, some of the personnel can be friendly but even the most generous of them follow the rules in ways a German soldier from the Third Reich could be proud of. For example, when I recently asked my postal clerks to please place my accumulated first class mail — while I was on a week long trip — into one of the boxes where they put parcels for customers to pick up, they said “No way! That is forbidden by the rules.” Why? Well, they had no idea why — it’s just what the rules state, period, and you must live with it.

Yet what exactly is supposed to be the horror of monopolies? That they will refuse to allow for variety in the delivery of their services or products. Everyone must live with what the monopolists demand! That is why they must be broken up by the trust busters! Or so the story goes, never mind that the government’s most visible monopoly, the USPS, demands exactly that from us.

So the real story is that the US postal service, provided to us by the federal trust busters, is full of tedious unyielding rules no one may escape. Our post office, in particular, is open between 8AM and 4PM M-F and 10AM and 12AM on Saturday and if a resident who must pick up the mail there is unable to go to the office during these hours, that’s just too damned bad. No adjustment is allowed! This is exactly what we are told that monopolists would do if not broken up by the feds. But in the case of the USPS no other service is permitted by law to help with first class mail. The clerks at the local post office being such good soldiers will not go against their rules and will not place the mail into the boxes which normally contain only parcels so as to serve customers. Oh, but I forget — government agencies do not have customers, only subjects! Like monarchs used to. They must all bend to the will of the rulers and the USPS is but an extension of the ruling government, certainly not ready to help out customers who might not be able to bend to its rules!

But you heard it everywhere — the US government is opposed to nasty, dastardly monopolies. Just another lie the government tells us. But at least there is some justice in the world: the USPS is bust, bankrupt, unable to pay its bills. And given its unaccommodating service to some of us, this isn’t very surprising.

Column on Sample of Government-at-Work

A Sample of Government-at-Work

Tibor R. Machan

Where I live there’s no mail delivery. All USPS mail has to be picked up at the post office. And at the post office the address is, well, a P.O. Box with its number.

If one sends a piece of mail to the house address, the zip code must contain the post office box number at the end of the regular five digit number. And it is usually no problem to do this! Except, of course, with some government bureaus.

In particular, the Department of Motor Vehicles in California refuses to accept the additional numbers for the zip code. No matter how often one calls them about this, no matter how often one sends them messages from their web site, they refuse to add the extra numbers, so when they send citizens their license plates or any other official government mail, these often get returned “undeliverable.”

Now one would think there is no big problem with adding those extra numbers but for the 12 years I have lived where I do, I have tried and tried to get this accomplished with the DMV but to no avail. And when I explain this to the people at the post office, they say this is happening to everyone where I live and they cannot get things changed either. Multiply this by all those who live where mail needs to be fetched from post office boxes and you can fathom the situation.

Fortunately, when such mail is sent to homes in my canyon community, they often get rerouted to the post office anyway, as a matter of courtesy. But not always–especially when a new person or temp takes over handing of the mail. Then such materials, often pretty important, get sent back to the DMV. (This can include drivers licenses, fee notifications, tags and such, so it can be quite disruptive to people who experiences this bureaucratic snafu.)

I realize that this is hardly a major obstacle to the functioning of our republic. Nonetheless it is somewhat indicative of just the sort of malfeasance that governments often perpetrate. Since the management of more and more issues is being taken over by government–e.g., health insurance–one need not be a rocket scientist to imagine that these kinds of foibles will probably increase several fold in the future. And it all seems to be impervious to being remedied by even the most vigilant citizenship action. The DMV will not budge, the post office seems helpless and there seems to be nothing citizens can do to fix it.

Even apart from the general matter of the political flaw of government’s taking over so much of our social life, trying to manage everything for us–the hallmark of welfare statism–why is such elementary stuff not being dealt with competently? It should give supporters of the greater and greater involvement of the public authorities in our lives some pause when simple things will not be handled with even the most elementary competence.