Advances in Regulatory Economics series
Edited by Michael A. Crew and Paul R. Kleindorfer
Chapter 5: A new governance model for US postal services
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is on the brink of collapse. Staggered by debts that it cannot repay, USPS is seeking legislative relief while threatening radical retrenchment. In Congress, prospective decline has evoked sharply contrasting visions of the future of the post. For some members of Congress, six-day, high-quality postal service to every corner of the country remains necessary to ‘bind the Nation together’ – the lifeline for those on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’, the anchor of small and rural communities, the backbone of a vast subsector of the economy. For others, USPS is a bloated federal bureaucracy built for a bygone era – too many offices, too frequent deliveries, an excessive and overpaid workforce, run by a political board incapable of ‘right sizing’ a business being overtaken by new technologies. Neither vision commands a majority of lawmakers. Current proposals only postpone fundamental reform, while giving postal management detailed, but dubious, instructions on how to run a national postal system. This chapter proposes a more promising approach. Legislators, it will be argued, should focus less on what future postal services should entail and more on how such questions should be decided. A wiser strategy for governing the postal sector will provide a sounder and more enduring basis for managing postal services in the future.
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