Friday, September 16, 2011

BLACKMAIL. The Postal Service is having money trouble, and the conservatarian line is that this is due to Big Gummint socialism so the USPS should be privatized:
Congress hasn’t been able to bring itself to allow the USPS to close 3,000 of its 30,000+ retail locations, so it’s hard to imagine that it will allow operations to come to a halt. Therefore, the important question is what sort of relief will Congress ultimately provide?

Let’s start with what it won’t do: consider privatization...

...if the USPS is to operate solely on the revenues that it generates, then it needs the flexibility that comes with private ownership.
Other such people admit that small-market citizens would find their service drastically curtailed by a new, profit-hungry privatized postal service (indeed, USPS is already talking about shutting thousands of POs to save money), but screw them because "there is no good economic reason to subsidize people who decide to live in remote areas"; they propose phasing in a new leaner, meaner mail service that will at first merely "charge double postage for mail to or from designated remote areas and... terminate Saturday mail service to and from those areas," then cut the rope and let the free market rule.

The thing that's most dispiriting about this is, the Postal Service isn't the brainchild of Barack Obama or FDR or Teddy Roosevelt, but of Ben Franklin -- it's explicitly mandated by the Constitution, and one of the services that for centuries was thought indispensable to any government worthy of the name.

But our leaders are so completely drunk on privatization doctrine that even having a goddamn local post office is thought to be too good for us. For years the USPS has been trying to serve the people while simultaneously meeting the business model that the free-marketers thrust upon them, and the inevitable telling of this strain is now being used as proof that, see, government doesn't work -- even in ways the Founders expected it to.

This is a milestone on our journey to a neo-feudal age. They're already taking about doing away with public roads. Soon enough everything will be market-driven, and you'll find indigents begging for water next to privatized reservoirs. And there'll be a little army of idiots in tricorners dancing around, convinced that this is a restoration of the original vision of America. It's a restoration, all right -- yea, even unto the Middle Ages.

UPDATE. Among many brilliant commenters, Alan points out Alison Kilkenny's article about the disastrous effect on USPS of the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act of 2006, which would seem to have been the set-up for the current crisis.

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