Don’t Knock the Post Office


This article from Bruce Bartlett about the case for an Investment Tax Credit is pretty interesting. But this is a pet peeve of mine:

Historically, government-directed investment has been very inefficient. That’s why Amtrak and the Post Office don’t work very well and why there was a privatization movement in the 1980s and 1990s, which led governments everywhere to sell their state-owned enterprises.

As for Amtrak, if you compare passenger rail in the US to passenger rail in Europe and Japan it’s pretty clear that the difference isn’t that government-directed investment doesn’t work, it’s that Europe and Japan have decided to invest a lot in passenger rail and we haven’t. As for the US Postal Service, at the end of the day it does a pretty darn good job. Want to send a letter somewhere? Put it in an envelop and stick it in a box, and it’ll go where you wanted it to go. They’ll pick the letter up from your house if you want it, and hand-deliver it to the destination. For not much money! Anywhere in the country!What you can say about the Postal Service is that in the modern day it’s not clearly necessary to have a public agency guaranteeing the availability of this service in the way that it was before phones and email. But for quite a long time this was a really mission-critical element in our communications infrastructure and it still works just fine.