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Privatize the USPS?

Races for the Senate, U.S. House, etc. and other issues of national importance.

Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:55 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:It was my impression that "no price increases" was one of the conditions you placed on any alternative system.
Not sure how you got that impression. I stated (and I think it's obvious) that any alternative system would necessarily be either more expensive (since they can't possibly hope to compete with the USPS infrastructure) or provide far less coverage of service. You've said as much yourself, you just don't care about the folks who would lose service. Prices have steadily increased on stamps my entire life....y'know, like prices for lots of stuff. It's called "reality". Perhaps you should visit sometime.
ArturoBandini wrote:Or are you just arguing for geographic uniformity of prices?
As I stated upthread, the only truly uniform pricing which currently exists is for a first class letter. That needs to remain, as does guaranteed service to all locations. Because without those two criteria, you'd be "fixing" USPS by instituting an inferior system. Still unclear why you think that's preferable.
ArturoBandini wrote:How can you say that the winners are every single U.S. citizen? What about people in high-density urban areas who effectively overpay for letter services?
First of all, everybody benefits when everybody has access to the mail. Not sure why you don't see that. Just because I live in an urban area doesn't mean I will never have reason to mail something to or receive mail from a rural one. And if I don't need to do so directly, perhaps somebody I do business with needs to. See, we're all connected, even folks like you who'd rather everyone had to sink or swim based on naught but the whims of the free market. It's kinda the same argument about roads -- we all benefit from them, even if we aren't using them directly.
But beyond that, you really think 45 cents is "overpaying"? Not only is it cheaper than (I'm pretty sure) anywhere else in the world, it seems pretty damn reasonable to me for the service being provided. So once again, your argument hinges mostly on greed. You want to pay less, so the people you don't give a fuck about should have to pay more.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:07 pm

Stebben84 wrote:Do you think the price of a stamp is too high?
Under what constraints? Absent any sort of boundary conditions, I can unequivocally say that yes, the price of a stamp is too high. If there were a system capable of delivering limitless mail volume at $0.00 per piece, it would be a superior system.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby jman111 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:19 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:If there were a system capable of delivering limitless mail volume at $0.00 per piece, it would be a superior system.

I think this statement effectively summarizes most of what Arturo contributes to the forum.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:23 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:If there were a system capable of delivering limitless mail volume at $0.00 per piece, it would be a superior system.
Still seems overpriced. I think the mail should pay me for being delivered.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:31 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:I stated (and I think it's obvious) that any alternative system would necessarily be either more expensive (since they can't possibly hope to compete with the USPS infrastructure) or provide far less coverage of service.
A competitor needn't compete using the same type or magnitude of infrastructure as the existing monopoly, nor is it inconceivable that multiple carriers exist simultaneously to provide patchwork service that still covers the same area.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Because without those two criteria, you'd be "fixing" USPS by instituting an inferior system.
You call it inferior, I call it reflective of economic and geographic reality.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:First of all, everybody benefits when everybody has access to the mail. Not sure why you don't see that. Just because I live in an urban area doesn't mean I will never have reason to mail something to or receive mail from a rural one. And if I don't need to do so directly, perhaps somebody I do business with needs to.
I'm not precluding you or anyone else from sending a letter to a rural area, I'm saying that you or the recipient (i.e. not an uninvolved third party) should pay the actual cost of doing so.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:It's kinda the same argument about roads -- we all benefit from them, even if we aren't using them directly.
No argument, but that doesn't mean that it's still not more efficient and economical to place the costs of that infrastructure on the most-direct users where possible. The beneficial externalities can still happen, but the injurious ones are minimized.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:But beyond that, you really think 45 cents is "overpaying"? Not only is it cheaper than (I'm pretty sure) anywhere else in the world, it seems pretty damn reasonable to me for the service being provided.
It's reasonable in an absolute sense (I would rather spend $0.44 than hand deliver my letter), but it would be an even better option at a lower price. To make an analogy, in an absolute sense in terms of services rendered, motor gasoline would be a bargain at $100/gallon, but that's not the most economically-efficient price.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:So once again, your argument hinges mostly on greed. You want to pay less, so the people you don't give a fuck about should have to pay more.
I don't care if I pay more personally. I want all prices to be more transparently reflective of their actual costs in terms of time, labor, resources, and risk, instead of being arbitrarily controlled by legal means.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:37 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:reality


You are not allowed to use that word.

I'm done. I don't know why I engaged you in the first place. Your argument -- no matter the topic -- is always identical: "Everything would be better if the free market was in control." Just get that tattooed on your face and you'll never have to talk to anyone again.

In the real world, there is not one singular solution to everything, and certainly not a purely economic one.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:54 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:
ArturoBandini wrote:If there were a system capable of delivering limitless mail volume at $0.00 per piece, it would be a superior system.
Still seems overpriced. I think the mail should pay me for being delivered.
That's not inconceivable - maybe something akin to free internet service in exchange for advertisement exposure (e.g. Kindle 3G). Mail service of a different sort, like broadcast television, might be largely funded by advertising.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Stebben84 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:04 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:I don't care if I pay more personally. I want all prices to be more transparently reflective of their actual costs in terms of time, labor, resources, and risk, instead of being arbitrarily controlled by legal means.


And you think the free market is completely transparent. I would argue that public services are much more transparent. I don't have the time now, but I'm guessing you could find a breakdown of the post office budget quicker than that of Walmart.

ArturoBandini wrote:A competitor needn't compete using the same type or magnitude of infrastructure as the existing monopoly, nor is it inconceivable that multiple carriers exist simultaneously to provide patchwork service that still covers the same area.


Such as we have right now with UPS and FedEx. They seem to be doing just fine with the USPS in place as it is and how it functions. Do you really think that if the USPS were privatized, those companies were drastically reduce their prices.

Here's a good example. The cable companies had a certain monopoly on service a few years back. ATT and others lobbied to deregulate the system, and their main argument was that opening up competition would help to lower costs. You can google all this if you don't remember. Well, how many years after this happened and look at your bill for any of these companies. Tell me the prices went down. Your argument is bullshit and has been proven to not produce the results you think it will.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:06 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:You are not allowed to use that word.

I'm done. I don't know why I engaged you in the first place.
Perhaps it's because you're like me and enjoy thinking and arguing. And on reality - the world of ideas is every bit as essential and real as the world of concrete, paper, and white jeeps.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Your argument -- no matter the topic -- is always identical: "Everything would be better if the free market was in control." Just get that tattooed on your face and you'll never have to talk to anyone again.

In the real world, there is not one singular solution to everything, and certainly not a purely economic one.
I'm not primarily arguing for a free market for its own sake, I'm arguing against the initiation of force, from which the position in favor of a free market necessarily evolves. And I don't want to never have to talk to anybody ever again, I like talking to people, even if they disagree strongly. The internet makes this easier because it is less likely that impulsiveness will lead to any regrettable words or actions.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby snoqueen » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:12 pm

This isn't directly related to Arturo and Wags' discussion, but consider the historical relationship of the US Postal Service to our government. From the very earliest, the US government held communications services to be of the highest priority. They were to be confidential, reliable, and extended to all people and localities according to the technology of the day in a democratic manner.

What a joke we've made of this. Where is confidentiality? The USPS is still by law the most confidential communications system we've got -- far exceeding anything electronic that isn't encrypted between sender and receiver. Interfering with the US mail is a federal offense to this day, while Google reads all the email that comes through their servers.

Reliability? For physical delivery of a letter, it's hard to beat. Once in a great while something gets lost, and if this is due to deliberate actions, they too are federal offenses. These laws are taken seriously by postal workers, most of whom take their jobs to be a public responsibility in a remarkably uncynical manner.

Extending to all? It costs the same to mail a letter to the west side as it does to mail it to Hawaii. The price is pennies. I don't have to buy a computer, pay a subscription, or buy any other device more sophisticated than a mailbox. What could be more democratic?

It's hardly miraculous, but it's pretty remarkable considering how today so many conveniences are available only to those who can pay and pay well, and all the more remarkable considering how nearly all our other communications systems are cluttered with advertising, driven by profitability, and hold service as a low priority well behind the remuneration of the stockholder and CEO. The USPS is a relic of a time when "your government at work" meant something good, and that principle is still worth consideration today, when the words are mostly raw material for a laugh.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:21 pm

Stebben84 wrote:And you think the free market is completely transparent. I would argue that public services are much more transparent. I don't have the time now, but I'm guessing you could find a breakdown of the post office budget quicker than that of Walmart.
I didn't claim that anything was completely transparent. And examining a budget breakdown is merely a tiny slice of the degree of transparency required to really understand the efficiency of a market. If I told you that I spent $65/month on gasoline, which was 4% of my income, would that help you determine whether the price I paid was economically efficient?
Stebben84 wrote:Such as we have right now with UPS and FedEx. They seem to be doing just fine with the USPS in place as it is and how it functions. Do you really think that if the USPS were privatized, those companies were drastically reduce their prices.
I don't know. The USPS might be able to lower their own prices after privatization, thereby outcompeting UPS and Fedex. But if UPS goes bankrupt, you and other taxpayers will not likely be forced to pay for their liabilities, unlike the USPS where such a backstop is implicit (and the reason behind the 2006 pension funding law).
Stebben84 wrote:Here's a good example. The cable companies had a certain monopoly on service a few years back. ATT and others lobbied to deregulate the system, and their main argument was that opening up competition would help to lower costs. You can google all this if you don't remember. Well, how many years after this happened and look at your bill for any of these companies. Tell me the prices went down. Your argument is bullshit and has been proven to not produce the results you think it will.
Cool story, bro. Do you mind providing some supporting information? Also, where are you living where cable service is not monopolized or has been actually deregulated?
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Bland » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:28 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:the world of ideas is every bit as essential and real as the world of concrete, paper, and white jeeps..

Perhaps you should consider have ideas then, instead of just sticking to one single idea all the time.

Can you think of ANY product or service that you don't think should be governed solely by free market forces?
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:34 pm

snoqueen wrote:Interfering with the US mail is a federal offense to this day, while Google reads all the email that comes through their servers.
Just so we're clear, it is also a federal offense to read someone's private email without authorization from that person.

And going further - a significant amount of the digital snooping done to your email and other electronic communication is done by the government or on their behalf. They are not protecting you from snooping, they are the snoopers.
snoqueen wrote:Extending to all? It costs the same to mail a letter to the west side as it does to mail it to Hawaii. The price is pennies. I don't have to buy a computer, pay a subscription, or buy any other device more sophisticated than a mailbox. What could be more democratic?
But you and most other people already own or have convenient access to a computer, internet access, or other sophisticated communications technologies. The marginal cost of using them for interpersonal communication to Hawaii is approaching zero.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby Stebben84 » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:38 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:The marginal cost of using them for interpersonal communication to Hawaii is approaching zero.


Hey bro, there a number of companies that actually charge me for making a payment online vs. sending in a check.
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Re: Privatize the USPS?

Postby WestSideYuppie » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:50 pm

One thing the USPS does is to drive a little truck to practically every address in the US, every day. There is no efficient way to have two carriers covering effectively the same territory with the same service.

UPS, FedEx, etc., can operate efficiently because they are geared up for sparse delivery because they don't have to do daily mail delivery.

I'm thinking purely in practical terms about what is likely to happen:

1. "Republican privatization" which is the conversion of public money into private wealth with no accountability mechanism. (Google "WEDC," "charter schools," and "Blackwater" for examples).

2. Monopolization by territory, like Cable TV.

3. Continual cycle of bankruptcies and bail-outs of the major players to maintain the illusion of a competitive market

Again, these are not based on theory or moral principle, but simply practical expectations.
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