Ben Franklin.
Sunday, February 1, 2009

Goodbye to Ben

Benjamin Franklin, shown above, was our first Postmaster General. I was watching The Beltway Boys this morning before getting ready for church, and they mentioned the news about the Post Office reducing or planning to reduce service to 5 days a week instead of 6. They suggested that it might be a good time to open up the postal monopoly, which applies, as far as I know, to first class mail, to competition. Now the PO has been seriously underperforming for years. Most corporations do not hold on to underperforming assets. What they do is sell them off, and let some other fool take the risk of operating them.

The Post Office owns or leases thousands of buildings, some of it in prime commercial areas, such as Washington’s L’enfant Plaza, so why not privatize the Postal Service, and begin by selling off the existing real estate to private postal operators? There is always the risk that just as the idiotic decision to break up AT&T resulted in the Italianization of phone service, and Italianization is good only in culinary, literary, and musical matters, that the same will happen with postal service.

It might be possible to bring in a consortium of operators, Federal Express, UPS, and others, and work out a series of cooperative purchases, and retain the PO solely as the printer/authorizer of stamps. Since stamps are also collectibles for many people they can be a source of revenue that actual mail delivery isn’t.

On the local level the biggest set of under or non-performing assets is found in public education. The schools are controlled by a vast and expensive bureaucracy. Teachers and teaching certification are controlled by a union, the NEA, that enforces standards that result in poor teachers, with minimal subject matter expertise, because they have been forced to take education courses instead of subject matter courses, teaching children. The public schools also enforce an ideological rigidity on children whose parents may not share that ideology. The result has been a nation of miseducated children who must enroll in remedial classes in college. Sell off the public schools, fire the bureaucrats, use the proceeds to establish local funds that can be used by all citizens, at their discretion, to give their children the kind of education they want.

Petronius, author of The Satyricon, once made a nasty comment about women and money, which I’ll paraphrase slightly for delicate readers, “They take it in cold and good, and pee it out warm and useless.” Naturally I don’t agree with this misogynous comment, but it is true of governments. It is time to stop giving government our money, only to have them waste it,