Postal Nonsense

by Don Boudreaux on September 2, 2009

in Prices, Regulation

Here’s a letter that I sent this morning to the Wall Street Journal:

American Postal Workers Union president William Burrus complains that “It is deeply troubling that Journal editors advocate ending the Postal Service’s exclusive right to sort and deliver mail.  The Postal Service must remain a public service if we are to honor our nation’s commitment to serve every American community – large or small, rich or poor, urban or rural – at affordable, uniform rates” (Letters, Sept. 2).

Apart from disingenuously describing monopoly as a “public service,” Mr. Burrus makes two unfounded assumptions.  The first is that private, competitive firms won’t supply everyone willing to pay.  Small-town America brims with competitive private firms operating the likes of affordable supermarkets, motels, satellite t.v., restaurants, and clothing stores – oh, and also express overnight mail delivery!

Mr. Burrus’s second wrongheaded assumption is that it’s good that postal rates be uniform.  How can it make sense that the price of mailing a letter from Manhattan to Brooklyn be the same as the price of mailing a letter from Manhattan to Point Barrow?  But if such enforced “uniformity” does make sense – if it makes sense to charge prices that do not reflect the conditions of supply and demand – then why doesn’t the USPS pay all of its workers “uniform” wages?  Why aren’t newly hired clerks paid the same salaries received by thirty-year veteran mail carriers?

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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