USPS: Zombie Politics

When Ralph Nader steps in, it’s a sure sign it’s too little, too late. Hence, Nader is now trying to save the United States Postal Service by more of his trademark narrow special pleading.

Problem? The USPS was mortally wounded in 1967, when it had to stop opening savings accounts due to government restriction of both the size of deposits and its ability to pay interest rates competitive with those then offered by private banks. A second severe blow came in 1971, when Nixon pushed it to the very edge of the public sector in retaliation for a postal union strike. Eleven years later, the death-blow was delivered — of course — by the Reagan Administration, which ended meaningful public subsidy and required the post office to survive by selling its own “postal products,” which — also of course — were not to include things like savings accounts or insurance policies or anything else that might compete with the so-called private sector, despite the common practices of the rest of the supposedly free world.

More recently, mainstream politics have further strangled the USPS, including by the method about which Nader now complains, the amazing requirement that the USPS pre-pay its workers’ pensions to the government.

Why do I mention all this, apart from its obvious relevance to the TCT theme of the private sector’s reliance on the maiming of public-sector competition? (How attractive would a USPS savings account paying even the measly 2% rate that killed the practice back in the 1960s look in our age?) The answer can be seen here, at Deliver magazine.

What is Deliver? Published by the USPS,

Deliver magazine, is [a] resource for mail marketing strategies brought to you by the United States Postal Service.® What We Do: Deliver magazine arms marketers with research, news and commentary impacting their industry.

That’s right. Deliver magazine is a public-sector enterprise that advises capitalists on how to prepare and send junk mail! Now, there’s an activity that doesn’t need to be regulated by the supposed representatives of the people!

Go take a look at Deliver‘s website. There, you will discover such shining examples of the public spirit in action as this piece, “Power in the Mailbox”, by spammer-marketer Steve Cuno (who also happens to post apologies for his trade at, where they hold to the view that capitalism is rational and honest):

Time for a disclaimer before I proceed. I’m not attacking e-mail marketing. I shall contrast it with direct mail only to bring out some of the latter’s advantages. E-mail has advantages, too, but that’s another column for another day.

A number of unique factors work in direct mail’s favor. One is what your English literature teacher called “willing suspension of disbelief,” our ability to set aside reality and lose ourselves in a story. When a direct mail letter shows up in a personally addressed, stamped envelope, part of us wants to believe that someone took a moment to compose, print, address and post it, just for us. All the better if the letter calls us by name and bears a signature in fountain pen–evoking blue. A good writer can make an e-mail blast sound personal, but there is no electronic substitute for the look and feel of a signed letter in a stamped, addressed envelope.

Willing suspension of disbelief knows no demographic limitations. Consider my publisher friend. A technologically savvy marketing insider, she knows my shop, understands digital printing, publishes my articles and, on occasion, pops for lunch. Had she paused to analyze, she would easily have seen that the letter in her hand was direct mail. But — and this is the point — she chose not to pause and analyze. Nor did other recipients. Remember, these were high-balance customers, not exactly the intellectual dregs of society. Of those who replied, 80 percent willingly suspended their disbelief and thanked the bank president for writing them.

The near-overnight appearance of spam laws and filters provides another. No sooner had e-mail blasts arrived than the public demanded laws restricting them, servers blocking them, and junk filters dispatching them.

By contrast, laws governing physical mail are far less restrictive, despite more than 200 years of opportunity to enact them — and for good reason.

Yes, in America, we don’t regulate the mail. We merely cripple and prostitute its deliverer.

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