The US Postal Service: It’s Not About Profit!

The right-wing mantra these days seems to be that every government activity should make a profit and those that don’t should be privatized so that someone in the private sector can make a profit.

It would be interesting to see the inner workings of the families of the people who beat the drums for privatizing the Postal Service. No doubt, as they consider whom to marry, they keep the lawyers busy drafting prenups, trusts and who knows how many other legal documents necessary to running a marriage as a profit center. That system will work fairly well as long as the family consists only of the number of adults they consider optimal to keep their FamCorp spreadsheet in the black.

But what plans are made to keep their FamCorp financially healthy if they engage in a friendly takeover in acquiring a child? The acquisition costs and maintenance of a child are quite high and the time needed to attend to the child, if costed out, could sink the economic stability of FamCorp. On the other hand, failing to add a child to their portfolio will create problems in ensuring eternal life to their FamCorp. At that point, they might sense the infiltration of doubts about the operation of their enterprise.

Or maybe not. Not all people have the same priorities. So, here’s another way of looking at how to run a family, a community and a country, a model that used to be widespread.

Families and communities do not operate like businesses. This is not to say that they should be profligate with their resources or the money. It is the case that they recognize that many resources beyond just money matter. Most families do not expect to make a profit by having children. In fact, they know that children are expensive, but decide to have children despite the cost.

Communities recognize that they are composed of elements with many different qualities, some of which make contributions in some areas, while there are costs in others. They recognize that they are part of a system and understand the importance of the parts of a system which come together into a whole.

In the case of governmental services, some geographical areas and services need to be subsidized by other parts. In the case of mail delivery, providing service to rural areas costs far more than is the case for those areas with greater population density. But we recognize that we are one country, and we recognize the important role that mail delivery plays – despite the Internet.

These are not new ideas. The US Constitution included the power to create a postal service to the new country and met the challenges keeping up with the country’s rapidly growing population and geographic breadth. The drafters recognized the importance of knitting the US together as one country, one people. And they knew these goals could not be achieve in bits. It needed to be – still needs to be – a whole.

It is past time that we recognized the value of service and stopped allowing it to be treated as a dirty word. If we decide to extend FamCorp to the delivery of mail, we will leave many areas of the country with no access to regular mail delivery and at the mercy of very expensive private services.

As for those who live in FamCorpLand, they may know the price of everything, but know the value of nothing. As Oscar Wilde pointed out, that is the definition of a cynic. Take our state and federal representatives who are pushing the idea that everything must make a profit. Ask them how much profit their offices have made. The answer had better be none. If they are making a profit while in office, then we have even larger problems – and so do they.