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Yes, End the Postal Service


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National Review:

Earlier this week, GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty released some ideas on how to improve the economy. One of those ideas was to make government respect the “Google test”: If an Internet search reveals private businesses that provide a good or service, the government shouldn’t provide it as well. As an example, Pawlenty cited the United States Postal Service — a company that has a federally guaranteed monopoly on delivering letters, cannot make a profit, and must deliver to all addresses in the United States.

Right now, the federal government is spending about a trillion dollars it doesn’t have every year. Fully privatizing the USPS won’t do much to fix that, and therefore probably shouldn’t be a priority. But it’s still a great idea.

It’s true that the Postal Service has its roots in the Constitution: Congress is authorized to “establish Post Offices and Post Roads.” The Constitution doesn’t require Congress to do that, however, and it certainly doesn’t forbid private companies to deliver letters. The USPS monopoly on letter delivery is the result of everyday laws that can be changed whenever Congress chooses to.
So what is it, exactly, that the USPS gives us that a free market in letter delivery couldn’t? And what costs come along with these benefits?

Several liberals have claimed that while the USPS delivers to all addresses, private package services such as UPS and FedEx don’t deliver to some rural areas. The unproven assumption, of course, is that these companies still wouldn’t serve certain pockets of the market if they were allowed to deliver letters in addition to packages. But more fundamentally, the claim is simply not true: The websites of UPS and FedEx confirm that the companies serve every address in the United States, although some services aren’t available everywhere.snip
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