Column on Is the US Government Against Monopolies?

Is The US Government Anti-Monopoly?

Tibor R. Machan

So you may have heard that the US Federal Government is opposed to monopolies and that is why the Department of Justice has its various rules against them. All those antitrust provisions are supposed to keep competition going and prevent any business from becoming the only one around to serve customers. Right, you have heard this — I certainly have.

Only it isn’t true. The federal government is in fact dedicated to preventing competition one place where it could come in very handy. This is in the service of delivering first class mail! No one else is permitted by the government to do this apart from the United States Postal Service. So when one finds that this service doesn’t quite manage to suit one’s postal needs, there isn’t a thing to be done about it apart from hiring a helicopter and paying thousands of dollars to get some letter delivered. But, oops, even that is unavailable since if you were to start such a helicopter service, it would be illegal! The USPS simply forbids anyone else from providing first class mail service to us, period. No, Fed Ex or UPS isn’t allowed — they may only serve us with parcel and not with first class deliveries.

And the USPS’s monopoly isn’t a very nice one either. (Of course, some of the personnel can be friendly but even the most generous of them follow the rules in ways a German soldier from the Third Reich could be proud of. For example, when I recently asked my postal clerks to please place my accumulated first class mail — while I was on a week long trip — into one of the boxes where they put parcels for customers to pick up, they said “No way! That is forbidden by the rules.” Why? Well, they had no idea why — it’s just what the rules state, period, and you must live with it.

Yet what exactly is supposed to be the horror of monopolies? That they will refuse to allow for variety in the delivery of their services or products. Everyone must live with what the monopolists demand! That is why they must be broken up by the trust busters! Or so the story goes, never mind that the government’s most visible monopoly, the USPS, demands exactly that from us.

So the real story is that the US postal service, provided to us by the federal trust busters, is full of tedious unyielding rules no one may escape. Our post office, in particular, is open between 8AM and 4PM M-F and 10AM and 12AM on Saturday and if a resident who must pick up the mail there is unable to go to the office during these hours, that’s just too damned bad. No adjustment is allowed! This is exactly what we are told that monopolists would do if not broken up by the feds. But in the case of the USPS no other service is permitted by law to help with first class mail. The clerks at the local post office being such good soldiers will not go against their rules and will not place the mail into the boxes which normally contain only parcels so as to serve customers. Oh, but I forget — government agencies do not have customers, only subjects! Like monarchs used to. They must all bend to the will of the rulers and the USPS is but an extension of the ruling government, certainly not ready to help out customers who might not be able to bend to its rules!

But you heard it everywhere — the US government is opposed to nasty, dastardly monopolies. Just another lie the government tells us. But at least there is some justice in the world: the USPS is bust, bankrupt, unable to pay its bills. And given its unaccommodating service to some of us, this isn’t very surprising.

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