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By Request: Five Days of Mail

By Matthew Yglesias  

"By Request: Five Days of Mail"

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Jack123 asks “Five days of mail delivery – Good or Bad?” The reference being to the idea of eliminating Saturday mail delivery as a cost-cutting measure. To which I say basically: Eh.

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When our country was founded, timely delivery of the mail was a critical piece of infrastructure and not something the private sector was ready to do. Modern conditions have led to the emergence of viable private sector parcel delivery firms, and have also led to a sharp decline in dependence on parcel delivery as a critical mode of communications. There’s the phone, fax, e-mail, etc along with UPS, DHL, FedEx, and the US Postal Service. The USPS is a useful entity in that mix, but modern-day conditions mean that postal policies don’t really matter in the way they once did.

One thing I do like about the idea of five-day delivery is that six-day delivery seemed like an odd form of established Christianity. Lots of things are open Monday-Friday, but to be open Monday-Saturday seemed to imply that we couldn’t deliver on Sundays because everyone’s at church.

Something I wonder about that’s perhaps more interesting is whether there isn’t a case for trying to privatize the Postal Service by selling it off to private investors. Presumably you wouldn’t want to do that in the middle of a financial panic, because you’d get low bids. But in general, though I understand why the USPS was established as a public agency in the past, it’s not obvious to me that if it didn’t exist today we’d be clamoring to create it.

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