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U.S. Post Office Needs to Look Down Under

The U.S Postal Service, that innovative institution which gave us "Overnight" mail that most often takes two nights, may now look to New Zealand as a model. In mid-1987 that country's government removed the monopolistic privileges of the New Zealand Post and surrendered all control of its actions and all stakes in its profits and losses.

Though the New Zealand service is not completely privatized (the state still retains ownership of the corporation), its several years of operation demonstrate a much more pro-consumer approach than our own monopolistic postal system.

For example, Consumer Research reports that the new New Zealand postal system has increased on-time delivery of first class mail from 84% to 99%. It has also increased the number of postal outlets by 17% by contracting out mail services to retail stores, and, by doing so, it has increased the number of hours and days postal service is available.

The New Zealand Post also dropped its monopoly over mailboxes. Merchants, utility companies, etc. may deliver their own mail or advertising to individual boxes. This too has freed up competition and service. In contrast, the U.S. Postal Service still insists on maintaining monopolistic access to mailboxes. This is pure silliness and bureaucratic protection of the few against the many.

Also very impressive is the New Zealand service known as Fast Post. Normal first-class service costs 23 U.S. cents, but if consumers want the guarantee of next-day delivery, they need only pay 80 cents per letter!

As regards postal rates, while the New Zealand Post was under state control in its last two years before the change, postal rates rose 40%, but since demonopolization, rates have not increased.

The New Zealand Post has been able to keep rates constant by cutting its costs. Among other changes, managers have cut paperwork by 90% and the workforce by 20%. In contrast, by having monopoly protection, U.S. postal workers, sincere as they are, have become the highest paid semi-skilled workers in the world! -- at our expense.

The virtues of privatizing postal services are evident in principle and in practice. So what keeps the U.S. Postal Service from following suit? As John Crutcher notes, the current Postmaster General, Anthony Frank, "knows he would have no support from his own management `unions'" and that such a change would lead unions to "generate hundreds of inquiries from Congress. So why should he try to make fundamental change?" Change will have to come from outside.

Given the fact that Scripture limits the State to matters of justice and defense, Christians should be some of the first to want to jettison the U.S. postal monopoly. What a vision! I can see it now -- a massive wave of Christians all-across the nation holding hands and chanting, "Separation of Post and State!." Sure.


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