Government Snow Removal

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Writes Darien Sumner:

Just an anecdote from the frozen north I thought you’d appreciate. Up here in Massachusetts, we had a huge snowstorm on Tuesday night; well over a foot of snow. As usual, when there’s a snowstorm, the government dispatched its fleet of plow trucks to clear the roads (mainly by shoving all that snow into the yards and driveways of private citizens without their consent — but I digress).

Now, in the town where I work, there are really only two roads. Several of the people I work with live on one of them, and they told me that, when they got up on Wednesday and went outside to check out the snow, their mailboxes were missing. Everybody’s mailbox, all the way down the road. Just gone. Turns out the government plow drivers had plowed their mailboxes right up, and they were all to be found, destroyed, buried in the snowbanks.

Imagine you own a plow company, and your drivers do this. What happens? Damage control happens. The drivers in question are fired, you spend a huge sum of time and money figuring out who was injured and apologizing and replacing their mailboxes. You take a huge PR hit nonetheless, and maybe are the target of a fair few lawsuits. But when the government plow drivers do the exact same thing? The upset citizens call the DPW, and are told that it’s their own fault for putting their mailboxes so close to the road, and the government will not be held responsible. Click.

Set aside for a moment the Catch-22 that if these people’s mailboxes weren’t so close to the road, the government mail service wouldn’t deliver to them. Can you imagine a business — even in the most fevered dreams of the most anti-business academic or bureaucrat of all time — treating its customers this way? Can you imagine that business staying in business? And yet, this is the exact kind of contempt the government “service providers” show to the people they supposedly serve day-in and day-out. Unreal.

7:45 pm on January 14, 2011