USPS just delivers letter mail at much lower rates than the others. And does so at a fixed rate to any address within the US, whether that's a neighbor across the street or a family member in a tiny town in the mountains.
> The USPS actually has two legally enforced monopolies, as per Title 39 of the US Code. One is over the delivery of anything defined as a “letter,” which is within certain size and weight limits. The second is over the use of your mailbox...there are criminal violations if anyone puts anything in your mail box that is not US government approved “mail.
> ...parcels were never subject to the delivery monopoly. Indeed, UPS was in that business first, and USPS entered afterwards. ...This is why DHL, FedEx, Amazon... and others are free to enter and exit the parcel business. It is defined as a different market.
> FedEx is another fascinating story. There was a need for express document delivery among professional services, such as law firms (this was of course long before e-mail). The USPS was too slow and unreliable. FedEx and Fred Smith threatened to litigate the issue to death...so the USPS allowed an exception in the delivery monopoly for “extremely urgent material.”
Enforced where I am.
Personally, most of the mail I receive from USPS is garbage. And my mailbox is located at the end of the block, clustered for the whole neighborhood. Due to both those facts, I rarely check the mail - it's often overflowing by the time I bother.
The mail I receive at my door (non-USPS) is 99% not junk. I don't have to go out of my way to retrieve it. And it's more likely to be dry (because the screen door never gets overfull of mail like the postbox).
Just an anecdote, not meant as anything more.
Their competitors certainly claim it gives the USPS a significant advantage, if you check the info I provided. They also give reasons for their view. Are there any particular reasons you think they're wrong?
I'd wager that "porch pirates" don't go into mailboxes even though there's valuable stuff in them.
I don't think empirical data are especially kind to it.
It also ignores the fact that monopolies have no incentive to produce high quality and ever improving product. They tend to get focused on maximize staff comfort over customer satisfaction.
ADDED: IOW, you could have an external taxpayer-supported "rural mail delivery" department that has a charter to deliver a letter for a quarter anywhere in the country rather than providing a subsidy within the system.
It's mostly academic at this point. (And the reality is most private package delivery is fairly universal because there are business advantages to having a fairly complete delivery network even if it's not necessarily the most efficient decision at the micro level.)
I would hate to have multiple companies completing to efficiently deliver ever larger piles of junk mail.
For one of the odd cases which details the weird world of USPS laws passed by Congress, check out Postal Service v. Flamingo Industries which starts with claims of attempts to create a mail sack production monopoly and goes interaction complicated from there. I was not aware the USPS has the powers of eminent domain and to conclude international postal agreements.
According to an inflation calculator I looked up, the $0.18 postage mentioned in the article is equivalent to about $6.00 in today’s dollars.
Today's first class postage costs 55 cents. And almost 180 years ago the cost to send a letter from NYC to Boston was basically half that at 26 cents. Feels like today's price hasn't kept with inflation.
Can we conclude that this disruptor company affected prices for over a century and a half by simply introducing a little competition?
Added: this PDF goes into gory details on the turmoil in the 1840s:
Can anyone more familiar with US history and/or political science explain this to me? How can you be both a socialist and against government regulation of business?
If you want to read about him, his works, and read his works. Punch his name into google with the word Mises tacked on the end. You will find that Libertarians(the Anarcho-Capitalist ones) tend to hold him in high regard for his actions and his writings.
His polital opinions were (and are today) very rare in that he was Left libertarian, where most people that label themselves libertarian are Right Libertarians.
Also most people that label themselves Socialist, are Authoritarians Socialists (meaning socialism via government violence)
Lysander Spooner is one of my favorite philosophers, his work No Treason the constitution of no authority was one of the first things of his I read, and still find it fascinating
Socialism just describes the idea that the means of production is owned in common (by the government for authoritarian socialism, or by the workers themselves for libertarian socialism) rather than capital investors, and distributing the profits of labour among the workers who produced it rather than to the capital owners.
When Marx came into contact with secret Prussian communist groups, they already had this idea, but it was Marx who gave it a proper basis. In general, socialism is, if nothing else, about the distribution of productive capacity in society, and the results that flow from that. SEP has a good article on it.
Tucker et al. fit much more neatly into the individualist anarchist spectrum than they do into socialism, in a similar way to both Proudhon and Stirner. But in contrast to Stirner, market socialism was proposed. Thus, it has more in common with Proudhon than Stirner. However, Marx's criticism of the ideas which prefigured Tucker in Proudhon laid the groundwork for the socialists who reject both the legitimacy of the state and markets - in general, modern left-anarchists and "libertarian Marxists".
Secondly, Lysander Spooner was a libertarian socialist. Libertarian socialism rejects economic control by the state. You’re probably thinking of social democracy when you think of socialism, because social democracy is what you see on the news. Social democracy is only one branch of the socialist movement (or movements).
In the same vein, conservatism is not automatically pro small government. For instance in recent years the British tories seems to be in favour of heavy government control/regulation.
The other major american socialist was benjamin tucker (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Tucker) who wrote about the schism between state socialism and traditional socialism, predicting, in effect, that Stalinism, Maoism, and Chavezism would be the natural consequence of Marxism, a good half century before they happened: https://panarchy.org/tucker/state.socialism.html
Interestingly Spooner and Tucker fought tooth and nail over the issue of IP (Spooner pro- and Tucker anti-) in a series of letters which presage conversations we're still having today.
I don’t know what specifically causes the USPS to deliver to a specific area, but there are entire incorporated cities, some with reasonably large population and density, that don’t receive mail at all except to the local post office. Even UPS and FedEx’s low-cost all-but-the-last-mile services regularly lose packages because they hand them off to the USPS.
They were not even trying to do that, Lysander formed the company with the expressed purpose that the government would sue him. he wanted to get the monopoly protection law for the USPS ruled unconstitutional
The board of utilities says that as a regulated monopoly I have to provide power to every parcel within the regulated area.
I charge more than the average cost+ rate so that, on the whole, the denser areas that require less infrastructure can subsidize the less dense rural areas where individuals may require kilometers of dedicated transmission line to service their location.
But you come along and charge less (or give power away), but you only do so in areas where it is either profitable or minimally loss-making.
>but Spooner dropped his rates even lower -- delivering many letters for free.
And you don't do this to run a competing enterprise, but to make a socio-economic/political point.
So all of my customers in the limited areas that you serve, naturally, switch to you.
But the areas you choose to serve, the densely-populated ones, are the areas that I need to fulfill my mission of delivering electricity to everyone.
No longer able to subsidize sparsely-populated areas, I either have to raise rates or give up.
"Well that's just the free market" is baloney. A utility's purpose is to serve its population.
A mail service's purpose is to deliver letters to everyone.
In countries where postal service is "privatized" there is still only one letter delivery service-- it's just run by a board instead of the government.
And those "privatized" postal services still have a universal service mandate, required by the law that privatized the formally nationalized entities.
As an aside, the UK's Royal Mail was privatized a couple of years ago. It was sold off at bargain-basement prices, ripping off the taxpayers, to investors who just happened, coincidentally, to be donors to politicians who were in charge at the time. Its "universal service" mandate expires next year.
We'll see how the FrEe MaRkEt handles universal service when not forced to by law.
The American Letter Mail Company wasn't competition. It was a vanity project launched for political purposes that wasn't even in the same game as the USPO, much less in competition with it.
You're not competing. It's monkey business.