Postal Monopoly and Saturday Delivery

The Postmaster General recently announced that the United States Postal Service will be ending Saturday delivery of first-class mail by August of 2013. Many people are upset at this cut in service. But few people are asking the real question: why does the United States Postal Service have a monopoly on delivery of first-class mail?

In 1844, Lysander Spooner wrote:

“1. …The power of Congress, then, is simply ‘to establish post-offices and post roads,’ of their own-not to interfere with those established by others.
2. The constitution expresses, neither in terms, nor by necessary implication, any prohibition upon the establishment of mails, post-offices and post roads, by the states or individuals.
3. The constitution expresses, neither in terms, nor by necessary implication, any surrender, on the part of the people, of their own natural rights to establish mails, post offices, or post-roads, at pleasure.
4. The simple grant of an authority, whether to an individual or a government, to do a particular act, gives the grantee no authority to forbid others to do acts of the same kind.”

That same year, Spooner opened the American Letter Mail Company to directly challenge the postal monopoly. Spooner’s mail service had post offices in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston, and advertised his service to “transmit letters daily from each city to the others – twice a day between New York and Philadelphia. Postage 6 1/4 cents per each half-ounce, payable in advance always. Stamps 20 for a dollar.”

One year into business, Spooner had forced the Post Office to lower rates for first-class mail and newspapers would “be sent free for any distance up to a 30-mile radius of the place of publication.” Spooner decided to dig in his heels and lowered his own rates to continue competing with the Post Office.

“So the battle of law and loopholes continued,” wrote Lucille J. Goodyear, “In 1851, Congress again lowered rates and simultaneously enacted a law to protect the government’s monopoly on the distribution of mail. Whereas threats of jail had not fazed or dampened Spooner’s zeal in the fight, the latter move by Congress forced him into defeat… his great battle had ended and his company was disbanded.”

I share Spooner’s belief that just because Congress has assumed the right to operate a Postal Service that they are thus granted the authority to forbid others from operating their own private postal service. I say, “good riddance” to Saturday delivery of first-class mail by the United States Postal Service and look forward to the day when private mail services are delivering mail every day of the week, and twice on weekends!