Advances in Regulatory Economics series
Edited by Michael A. Crew and Timothy J. J. Brennan
Misconceptions surround the United States Postal Serviceís (USPS) current organizational structure. If unaddressed, they may result in an inappropriate policy response to its current severe fiscal and governance challenges. USPS, although clearly a federally owned entity, is not a state-owned enterprise (SOE) in the sense that this term is normally understood in the United States and in other advanced economies. It is instead an independent government organization (IGO) within the federal government, and thus lacks the standard attributes of an SOE. There are many differences between the USPS as an IGO and other commercial enterprises. First, its ownership structure remains opaque and poorly defined. Ownership shares in USPS, for example, do not exist in a legal sense as they do in other SOEs, such as Amtrak. Moreover, USPS is not subject to the standard rules and norms that apply to large publicly traded, privately owned corporations. It does not have a board of directors, for example, that is charged explicitly with making decisions in the interest of firm owners. In addition, it is restricted by statute in its ability to compensate executives according to prevailing market conditions. Most fundamentally, it lacks the basic commercial discretion and decision control necessary to pursue market opportunities, which are the hallmark of any entity termed an ëenterpriseí.
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