Shamita Mahajan wants to save the Postal Service and she’s written a piece for the Kansas City Star making her case. In it, she addresses the rise of digital communication and how that has largely pushed physical mail out of the market, but that’s not the only reason for the Post Office’s dismal outlook. Sure, e-mail has largely nullified the traditional mail service, but were it not for the long-entrenched bureaucracy and labor unions, the USPS wouldn’t likely be in such a poor state.
In some ways I can agree with Mahajan on her point about hand-written letters. Letter writing is certainly becoming a lost art of sorts. Brett and Kate McKay over at the Art of Manliness have written a few times on hand-written letters and their place in the culture. And there was something extra special about sending and receiving hand-written letters between my wife and me while overseas.
However, two things struck me about Mahajan’s appeal, and she’s not alone in her thinking. Probably most Americans share her opinion about such government programs.
Those who enjoy letter-writing aren’t justified in forcing everyone else to support their hobby. This is a simple tenet of morality. It’s unjust to coerce individuals to do anything, let alone cough up money for things they don’t even want to use.
If Mahajan and her family decide to write more letters that’s great, but why must the federal government subsidize it? This is my second point: the industry should be opened up and the government should no longer prohibit companies from delivering letter mail.
As with everything else, the market has a remarkable way of working things out. In the absence of an anachronistic institution like the post office free individuals would step forward and offer to meet the needs of others. If letters can be delivered for cheaper than .45 cents, the market can make that happen; if they can’t, then those who want to send them should pay the difference.