The United States Postal Service has run up $4 billion in losses so far this year, on top of last year’s $15.9 billion deficit. Washington should get out of the mail business.
Congress created the Post Office in 1792, turning it into an important patronage tool. Legislators also passed the Private Express Statutes, giving the government a monopoly over first class mail.
Washington imposed fines on early competitors, including the famed Lysander Spooner. Uncle Sam continues to rigorously police his monopoly.
The Postal Service boasts that it would rank number 42 on the list of the Fortune 500—but that is only because the other 499 companies on the list, as well as everyone else, are barred from competing to deliver mail. Unfortunately for USPS, government lawyers cannot force people to send letters. The number of pieces of mail delivered dropped from 213 billion in 2006 to 160 billion last year.
In 1971 Congress voted to turn the post office into a quasi-private company. However, Washington preserved the monopoly, retained control over system operations, and preserved a variety of indirect subsidies. For instance, USPS is exempt from taxes, regulations, and even parking tickets.