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Re^4: Approximate Delivery Date from USPS---OT rant

by aaron_baugher (Curate)
on Jun 14, 2012 at 14:12 UTC ( #976220=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re^3: Approximate Delivery Date from USPS---OT rant
in thread Approximate Delivery Date from USPS

The funny thing is, I've found USPS service in my area to be better than ever. I can get a letter to anywhere in my region of the country in a day or two. Within the first three digits of my zip code, I can put something in the box in the afternoon and expect it to be there the next morning. For less than 50 cents, I can't complain.

But the fact is that even a quality service may become obsolete. Email means there's no need to send written letters anymore, unless you're sending a hardcopy as proof of something. That leaves USPS with bills, certain packages, and junk mail.

The US Constitution mandated that Congress establish post offices and roads because no one else could do it at the time. (And there was an argument over how far that power should go. At first the postal service couldn't even own land.) But now, with electronic communications and numerous private shipping companies, there's really no reason to have a USPS anymore. Shutting it down would hurt the people who work there, of course, but no one else.

Aaron B.
Available for small or large Perl jobs; see my home node.

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Re^5: Approximate Delivery Date from USPS---Still more OT ranting
by ww (Archbishop) on Jun 14, 2012 at 15:48 UTC
    "...even a quality service may become obsolete"

    That's not without merit. Consider the flint knappers who made those stellar Clovis-era spearheads; buggie-whip makers who produced a truly excellent product; and the drovers who herded range cattle to the railheads to be fattened into prime beef in the feed lots.

    OTOH, friends sent me a book, recently. I think the process there presents a minor (call it 'trivial' if you like) instance for the proposition that the USPS is NOT "obsolete." Without USPS and its bookrates, it probably would have been delivered by (UPS|FedEx|pick your poison) on Monday, rather than Saturday (and, I believe, at a higher cost to my friend).

    Or, the friends probably could have found an e-book version... and sent it electronically. But in that case, I probably would have received an email, rather than physical evidence of the thought and care that went into selecting the book and the gracious, handwritten inscription inside the front cover.

    One can, of course, hold that this very personal appreciation fails to present a case for continuing USPS existence.

    One can also argue that the effective demise of the railroads' passenger service reflected in some large measure, the then new popular mindset that being 'an American' entitled you to a car, an uncrowded highway, and a parking space near your office.

    There is, of course, some merit to that view. But, we know how long and how well that worked... and how high the cost of subsidizing that mindset, today.

    But terminating most passenger service also had the effect of reducing traffic on many branch lines contributing to the abandonment of freight on those as well. And the consequence?

    Tractor-trailers (operating with effective subsidies that make those provided the railroads fade as a bete noir) beating secondary roads to death and clogging the same Interstates that -- initially -- provided some minimal justification for that "uncrowded highway" hope.

    And, finally, an argument that I can't square with my semi-Libertarian economic views: If USPS goes away, will competition among the alternatve providers actually enhance service and drive down prices?

    Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't, but I certainly haven't see much evidence that we can count on it. Thus, I respectfully disagree with the Tea Party/Libertarian/radical GOP inclination to believe that the proposition "smaller government is better government" is globally true.

    IMO, t'ain't so.

    Nor do I think you've presented a compelling case for the judgment "there's really no reason to have a USPS anymore."

      True, media mail is one thing that is best sent USPS, and is what I had in mind when I said "certain packages." On the other hand, if the USPS didn't exist, perhaps a shipper like UPS would offer a similar service, but since USPS already does it so cheaply (perhaps taking a loss on it and making up the difference elsewhere?), there's no point in competing in that niche.

      That's the thing about the public/private argument -- as long as publicly-run entities (and USPS is one, although it's certainly more self-funded than most) are part of the competition, they distort the market, and there's no way to know how things would work if they weren't. Maybe there would be more shipping companies and types of shipping companies, and prices would come down. Or maybe certain ones would gain monopolies and prices would go up. I've seen both happen, so who knows.

      I'm not saying we should be in a big hurry to kill off USPS. As government entities go, it's one of the least harmful. It mostly pays for itself, and it employs citizens who are required to put in a day's work providing an actual service to customers who can judge its quality. That makes it better than 99% of government bureaucracies, so I could easily find a thousand others to shut down first. But if it died, I don't think most people who don't work for it would miss it much.

      Aaron B.
      Available for small or large Perl jobs; see my home node.

        Media Mail is required by congress to be very cheap. Library Mail is even cheaper but you as a civilian can't use it. Both are basically a subsidy for the educational and academic worlds. No private sector entity would ever offer it unless the government started licensing package delivery companies and made it a condition of license.

        Parcel Post is the unrestricted version of Media Mail. Parcel Post isn't competitive with Priority unless its over 10 pounds, just pay the extra 50 cents for Priority. Some things by law you must ship Parcel Post because the things can't ever be placed on a plane (Priority Mail). Parcel Post never goes on a plane. 48 to Hawaii or Alaska is a month with Parcel Post. The business model that UPS/Fedex use is to price at nearly a loss for large vendors, and small vendors make up for the cut throat contracts to large vendors. 1 lb by Fedex Ground is $9. ~$8 for UPS. USPS low $5 retail. There is no Fedex/UPS equivalent of First Class. You don't get tracking with USPS and no date definite delivery, but its alot cheaper. There are things that I've sold on ebay, that without first class package rates, would be cheaper to throw in the garbage can than send off by Fedex/UPS.

        One multinational corporation I have a relationship with, does not fax or email for legal reasons, and instead overnight UPSes 1 8x11 sheet of paper to me for what UPS charges retail $26. I assume that this corporation does this for all their clients with the same relationship as me. Obviously, this corporation does NOT pay $26 per letter, it probably pays much less than $12.85 that USPS charges for Express Mail. Final point of the story is, FedEx and UPS do not want small businesses/consumers as customers and have very high retail rates for them. Since FedEx/UPS negotiate confidential custom rates with their customers, it is impossible to know how much you are being taken advantage of. USPS's rates, retail and bulk shipper, are all public knowledge and posted on their website if you look long enough. Without USPS's even rates, FedEx/UPS would charge a minimum of $100 to delivery to any rural address. The county government would have to set up their own county mail department just to delivery the property tax bill and fines to residents. The USA is better off with USPS than without.

        they distort the market, and there's no way to know how things would work if they weren't

        Sure there is, just takes lots of research and stats long as publicly-run entities ... are part of the competition, they distort the market,

        So what? "Helping companies to make a profit" should not be the ultimate goal of a democracy unless the people decide so. Ultimately, the goal of the government, which are elected representatives of the people, is to do whats best for the people, not whats best for the corporations. If that means running a costly service so everyone gets their mail and everyone can afford to send mail to everybody else, then so be it.

        It is certainly possible for a corporation to take over running such a service. But than it should be required by law to hold to the same standards as the former government service. That includes government prescribed maximum pricing, a service that is accessible and affordable by everyone. Prompt delivery. Postal secret. And so on.

        What many in investors don't undertand (or don't like to understand): Essential services like post or electricity and such are... well essential. You can't just cut of areas that make a loss or demand huge sums of money for service in this area.

        It is also my very personal opinion that you can either run a government operation or a private corporation. When the next "too big to fail" company comes along to get the government to pay for their losses: "Fail, loosers!". If this would cut essential services, just let the government take over the operation and give the shareholders: Nothing. They failed to run a private corporation, so the only thing the people (or at least the managers of that corporation) deserve is jail time.

        Same goes for banks: Don't save the bank, save the customers (at least the ones that didn't gamble their money on high risk investments). Save the grandma that may loose all her money she saved for the last 60 years. Don't save the bank. It is an institution that failed, if you save it you'll have to do it in a few years again. And again. And again. Because they can risks everything they got and they know you'll save them if/when the fit hits the shan.

        Note to politicians: If you send the managers to prison and save Jane Grandma, you saved the economy from collapse and from a few gangsters and you'll probably get re-elected. If you save the bank and send Jane Grandma to prison for not paying her bills, you'll probably go to hell or whatever unpleasant afterlife-equivalent you believe in (if you don't believe in afterlife, we can always send you as foreign minister to Siberia. Sorry, we don't have a budget for heating, lost it in some bank saving deal that went belly-up).

        "You have reached the Monastery. All our helpdesk monks are busy at the moment. Please press "1" to instantly donate 10 currency units for a good cause or press "2" to hang up. Or you can dial "12" to get connected directly to second level support."

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