The Myth of the Post Office, or a Tale of Postal Perfidy

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On
February 15, I ordered an out of print pamphlet from an online bookseller
called Oddball Books, based in La La Land, People’s Democratic,
Liberated, Socialized, Tummy Tucked and Sometimes Electrified Republic
of California. I requested that it be sent to my post office box
here in the People’s Hillaryized Republic of Gotham. Oddball duly
informed me by e-mail that it was mailed through the Post Office’s
Priority Mail service on Friday, February 16. Impressed by the efficiency
of private enterprise, but aware that using the government’s mail
was risky business, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of a rare
work by Frank Chodorov, albeit with some uneasiness. This would
fill a lacuna in my library, and amuse the dust mites that call
it home.

Priority
Mail advertises two to three day delivery, so I expected to receive
it by Wednesday, February 21. In the past the Post Office has fraudulently
compared this service with FedEx and UPS, despite the fact that
the latter have online tracking and real accountability, something
that is as alien to the Post Office as honesty is to a politician,
and as the love of liberty is to a Puritan. After two weeks elapsed
without receiving the package, I e-mailed Oddball inquiring after
its whereabouts. The proprietor responded that he would check with
the Post Office.

Now,
I am not a conspiracy theorist, despite the best efforts of Murray
Rothbard and Lew Rockwell to demonstrate that history does not proceed
in vacuo, and that real people (government miscreants and their
crony capitalist friends) have reasons to thwart the free market
for their own gain, and to cover their tracks with bogus court history.
But when I identify the missing pamphlet as “The Myth of the
Post Office,” you might understand my suspicion that maybe
there is a conspiracy afoot, with the Post Office as Ground Zero.

A
few days later, the proprietor of the book service informed me that
he had insured the package and was filling out forms that the Post
Office required to conduct its own investigation. (A Post Office
investigation of a botched delivery sounds like a military war crimes
tribunal you wonder who should be investigating whom.) He was going
to send me some forms to fill out also. Great! Would they be in
triplicate? As of about two weeks later, April 3, I haven’t received
them. Maybe they have a worse service than Priority Mail! Sounds
like they ll need two investigations, and a slightly bigger budget
to cover both. And don’t forget — yet more funding to cover
the cost of the lost paperwork. (That big tax reduction proposed
by Jim Ostrowski appears to be in some jeopardy, and we haven’t
even got to the Department of Labor [which does no labor]. After
all, it costs the Post Office at least 50 percent more than private
enterprise to deliver a package.)

A
couple of days ago, I requested a refund, which I hope to receive
soon. I also informed Oddball of my thinking about insuring packages
entrusted to the Post Office. It occurred to me that such a practice
is similar to posting a sign in front of a bank that says “No
Guards or Security Systems Inside,” which would be an open
sesame to bank robbers. Flagging a package sent through the government’s
snail mail for insurance tells a postal bureaucrook that it’s a
valuable package. Which Priority Mail package is he going to steal
one that’s uninsured or one that’s insured? The irony is, as I pointed
out to Oddball, that the package probably would have had a better
chance of arriving safely uninsured.

At
least I have a reprint of “The Myth of the Post Office,”
which appeared as chapter 16 in Frank Chodorov’s book One Is
a Crowd: Reflections of an Individualist. There is some consolation
in rereading this essay now. It seems that I also have to go back
to school on conspiracy theories, starting with the Rockwell-edited
collection The
Irrepressible Rothbard
. And I’m having UPS deliver this
time, because a tome is a terrible thing to waste, especially on
a mindless bureaucrook.

April
4, 2001

William
J. Stepp is a New York writer active in anarcho-capitalist intellectual
circles.

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