The U.S. Postal Service is running a televised campaign using
the familiar refrain, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom
of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their
appointed rounds." Stirring, patriotic music plays in the background
while smiling postal workers on camera go about those appointed
It is probably just a coincidence that the USPS is currently
before Congress with its hat out, asking for, oh, $5 billion
or so, just to get it through a little crunch it's experiencing.
In any case, the business about snow, rain, heat, and so on
may be true. But don't try getting your mail delivered if your
mailbox is more than two feet or so from the curb. I speak from
One of my towns (my
property is in two) decided to run sewage and water lines
down my road for a new assisted-living development nearby. Now,
we weren't allowed to hook into these lines or anything we
were told by the town that it would "encourage development"
if they permitted us to do so. This seemed a little strange
after all, the lines were being put in specifically for a
new development, while my street is fully developed, with no
more lots for new houses. But never mind.
After laying the lines, the town repaved the road, raising
it several inches in the process. They said they would be back
to put an apron down that would make the drop from the road
to my property less precipitous.
In the meantime, the postman was sorely troubled by the new
height difference. It was difficult, it seemed, for him to get
his truck back on the road after he had pulled over to put the
mail in our box. A couple of weeks after the road had been repaved,
we received a call from the town postmaster. He told us we'd
have to move our mailbox.
The problem was that the town was supposed to be coming back
to put in that apron. If I dug up the post supporting the box
and moved it closer to the road, there was a good chance I'd
have to dig it up again and move it back. My wife explained
our problem to the postmaster.
He asked us if we could put gravel down to lessen the drop.
Sure, why not? I went out and bought a dozen bags of gravel
and made a gentle slope from the road surface down to our yard.
This worked for about a week. But the postman was not too careful
about how he pulled out from in front of our box, and it took
him only that week to throw enough gravel out of my incline
to ruin the effect.
Another call came. Delivery stopped again. My wife called the
town to find out when the apron would go in. Soon, soon they
were busy with a number of other jobs as well. In the meantime,
she made a weekly pilgrimage to the post office to pick up the
And she still does. It's now about 18 months since the road
was paved, and 16 since we've had home mail delivery. But I'm
proud to say that neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of
night stays her from the swift completion of her appointed rounds.
That isn't our only postal difficulty. When we bought the house,
we thought our postal address was the same as our address for
our land records. But after moving in, several weeks passed
without our receiving a single piece of mail. What was going
Well, it turns out that our mailbox sits just over the town
A line, in the tiny slice of our yard that is in town B. The
town A postmaster informed us that our address in town A did
not exist, and that his crew could not possibly drive the 20
feet into town B that delivering our mail would require. We
had to change our address to one in town B. But since all of
the land records show us as living in A, there is still mail
sent to that address and returned to the sender. And, of course,
one of the entities that keeps using that address is the taxing
authority of town A, since their system uses the land records
to determine our address.
Is it possible that a private firm could be so difficult to
deal with? Can you imagine a FedEx driver who would not walk
two feet from his truck to put a letter in a box? Can you picture
FedEx refusing to drive the extra 20 feet into "foreign territory"
to deliver mail to us?
When you see those smiling postal workers on TV, remember that
their organization continues to exist for one reason: anyone
who tries to compete with them in carrying ordinary mail is
subject to arrest. When the Mafia or drug lords operate in that
fashion, we recognize that they are not ordinary business organizations
but violent criminals.
This is particularly relevant now, because with the post office
teetering on the brink of insolvency and requesting a massive
bailout, we have a real opportunity. Libertarians are often
accused of being impractical dreamers. But getting rid of the
postal monopoly and fully privatizing the postal service are
well within the realm of practical possibility in the next year
or two. National Review, a mainstream conservative publication,
ran an article
calling for just such an evolution last week.
It is public opinion that will decide the issue. I've found
that many people are not even aware that the postal service
has a legal monopoly on letter delivery, and are shocked to
discover that you could be arrested for delivering a letter.
It's time to get the word out, and end one of the oldest government
rackets in America.