Thomas Sowell

Our post office, like the Hindustan Ambassador, has had a long run as a government protected monopoly. But just a partial erosion of that monopoly, with the appearance of United Parcel Service and Federal Express, has threatened the viability of the post office.

As for "a critical shortage of funds," that has truly gotten critical as the post office has seen its $15 billion line of credit at the U.S. Treasury shrink to the vanishing point. For years that line of credit allowed the post office's defenders to tell the big lie that it got no subsidy and was costing the taxpayers nothing.

I don't know who they thought put that money in the Treasury that the post office has been "borrowing" all these years, with no one foolish enough to think that they would ever be either willing or able to pay it back.

We could all use a line of credit from which we could get a few billion dollars, here and there, to cover our losses from time to time. But we are not all the post office.

Ironically, India has partially privatized its post office by letting private companies deliver mail. The government post office's deliveries of mail dropped from 16 billion to less than 8 billion in just six years, even though the population of India was growing.

You can always keep anything old, clunky and inefficient still in business, if you are willing to pour unlimited amounts of the taxpayers' money down a bottomless pit.

Hindustan Motors had to shut their doors when they ran out of money. How long will we continue to keep our own version of the Hindustan Ambassador on life support at the expense of the taxpayers, and of captive customers who are not even allowed by law to decide who can put mail in the boxes that the customers bought?


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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