Verret in Chicago Tribune: Mailbox Monopoly

Consumers, taxpayers and investors in private package deliver services would all stand to benefit if the United States Postal Service had some competition says Professor J.W. Verret in a Chicago Tribune op-ed.

Verret argues that government control of one's mailbox amounts to a "regulatory monopoly on mail delivery," with the only justification for that being an industry that is a natural monopoly, a term used by economists to describe a situation in which it is cheaper to have one provider due to high up-front costs. Given the success of FedEx and UPS, Verret disputes that argument and poses a unique solution to the issue of privacy rights in mail delivery.

Wait a minute, Mr. Postman, Chicago Tribune, May 18, 2008. By J.W. Verret.

"Let me anticipate one objection: privacy rights. Critics would question how mailbox owners could limit unwanted access or junk mail. One answer is to let the address holder choose. There could be a default rule of the status quo, no access to anyone but the Postal Service, unless an address holder specifically opted out and permitted another party access to his or her mailbox.

"For instance, consider the effectiveness of the federal do-not-call program, a rare jewel of bureaucratic ingenuity. An agency, such as the Federal Trade Commission, could administer an opt-in program for mailbox access.

"Address holders would sign authorization forms, on paper or online, allowing companies registered with the FTC, let's call them Registered Federal Mail Affiliates (or RFMAs, bureaucrats love acronyms) to access their mailboxes.

"RFMAs delivering to unregistered addresses would be subject to fines, and non-RFMAs accessing mailboxes would still face the penalty of mail-tampering laws.

"Competition would improve the quality and pricing of Postal Service. Competition might even urge the Postal Service to implement delivery charges based on distance."

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