Column on A Sample of Government-at-Work

A Sample of Government-at-Work

Tibor R. Machan

Where I live there’s no mail delivery. All USPS mail has to be picked up at the post office. And at the post office the address is, well, a P.O. Box with its number.

If one sends a piece of mail to the house address, the zip code must contain the post office box number at the end of the regular five digit number. And it is usually no problem to do this! Except, of course, with some government bureaus.

In particular, the Department of Motor Vehicles in California refuses to accept the additional numbers for the zip code. No matter how often one calls them about this, no matter how often one sends them messages from their web site, they refuse to add the extra numbers, so when they send citizens their license plates or any other official government mail, these often get returned “undeliverable.”

Now one would think there is no big problem with adding those extra numbers but for the 12 years I have lived where I do, I have tried and tried to get this accomplished with the DMV but to no avail. And when I explain this to the people at the post office, they say this is happening to everyone where I live and they cannot get things changed either. Multiply this by all those who live where mail needs to be fetched from post office boxes and you can fathom the situation.

Fortunately, when such mail is sent to homes in my canyon community, they often get rerouted to the post office anyway, as a matter of courtesy. But not always–especially when a new person or temp takes over handing of the mail. Then such materials, often pretty important, get sent back to the DMV. (This can include drivers licenses, fee notifications, tags and such, so it can be quite disruptive to people who experiences this bureaucratic snafu.)

I realize that this is hardly a major obstacle to the functioning of our republic. Nonetheless it is somewhat indicative of just the sort of malfeasance that governments often perpetrate. Since the management of more and more issues is being taken over by government–e.g., health insurance–one need not be a rocket scientist to imagine that these kinds of foibles will probably increase several fold in the future. And it all seems to be impervious to being remedied by even the most vigilant citizenship action. The DMV will not budge, the post office seems helpless and there seems to be nothing citizens can do to fix it.

Even apart from the general matter of the political flaw of government’s taking over so much of our social life, trying to manage everything for us–the hallmark of welfare statism–why is such elementary stuff not being dealt with competently? It should give supporters of the greater and greater involvement of the public authorities in our lives some pause when simple things will not be handled with even the most elementary competence.

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