Ludwig von Mises Institute

United States Postal Service

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The United States Postal Service was founded on July 26, 1775, with Benjamin Franklin appointed as the first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress.[1]

Slowing service[edit]

In December, 2011, U.S. Postal Service announced plans to phase out overnight delivery of first-class mail due to budgetary reasons. However, the Postal Service has been intentionally slowing down first-class mail for almost 50 years.

In 1960, the post office's annual report announced "the ultimate objective of next-day delivery of first-class mail anywhere in the United States." But official standards for overnight delivery were lowered later that decade, trimming the target zone from state-wide to areas conveniently covered by mail-sorting centers. At a high level meeting in 1969, postal management decided "to no longer strive for overnight delivery and to keep this a secret from Congress and the public," The Washington Post reported in 1974. Management also considered cutting costs by educating Americans not to expect prompt service, according to the Post.

Back in 1764, colonial Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin proclaimed a goal of two-day delivery between New York and Philadelphia. In 1989, the Postal Service's goal was two-day delivery from New York City to next-door Westchester County, N.Y. Under the new standards, the target for overnight first-class delivery was reduced from a 100-to-150-mile radius to often less than 50 miles. The Postal Service estimated that the changes could add 10 percent to the average delivery time for first-class mail, which was already 22 percent slower than it had been in 1969.

In 1989, Postmaster General Anthony Frank claimed that the standards would "improve our ability to deliver local mail on time." But this was simply because the Postal Service lowered the definition of "on time." Frank also defended the reduced standards by noting that Mexico's mail service did not have an official overnight delivery goal for any of its mail. The Postal Inspection Service conclided that post offices "generally have a negative attitude toward service improvement, even when the capability is there at no additional cost."

Beginning in 2000, the Postal Service quietly slashed delivery targets in much of the nation for first-class mail going beyond local areas. A 2006 Postal Regulatory Comission report found that the Postal Service scorned federal law requiring the "highest consideration" to speedy mail delivery. Instead "administrative convenience resulted in mapping coverage of the two-day standard exclusively in terms of surface transportation."

The Government Accountability Office reported in 2006 that the Postal Servicce fails to "measure and report its delivery performance for most types of mail. The GAO also found that the Postal Service's "outdated standards are unsuitable as benchmarks for setting realistic expectations for timely mail delivery, measuring delivery performance or improving service, oversight and accountability."

The Postal Service has a monopoly over letter delivery (with a limited exemption for urgent, courier-delivered letters costing more than $3). The monopoly, which dates back to the 1840s, has become more indefensible with each passing decade.[2]

References[edit]

  1. USPS. "Significant Dates", referenced 2011-01-11.
  2. James Bovard. "U.S. mail: Slow and slower", December 16, 2011. Referenced 2012-01-31.

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