Authorized, But in the Red

According to the late economist James Buchanan, there exist three basic categories of government functions: protective, productive, and redistributive.

The protective functions are most basic. As inscribed in the Declaration of Independence, we are to be protected by government not in a scattershot way, but by having our rights delineated and defended. Think courts and the military.

The redistributive functions make up the bulk of the federal government, today . . . according to a recent Heritage Foundation chart, “More than 70 Percent of Federal Programs Goes to Dependence Programs.” Most of these, like Social Security and Medicare, were not originally contemplated as tasks for the federal union, and are flagrant violations of the Constitution.

But some “productive” (business-like) functions were placed into the Constitution, the most famous being the authorization to create a postal service.

Though no longer an official wing of the U.S. Government, the Postal Service is still hamstrung by congressional micro-management, as the shrinking mail biz busies itself trying to erase red ink.

The current notion is to drop Saturday delivery of all but packages. The enterprise hopes to save billions on this reform, alone, and was able to initiate the service cut without Congress’s approval by gambling on what some are calling a legal loophole.

Perhaps as politically dangerous is the ongoing attempt to get rid of post offices in smaller communities, replacing them with “Village Post Offices” that private enterprise would run.

It’s worth noting that though the Constitution allows for mail delivery and a few other “productive” services, these aren’t very productive — at least, they tend to operate in the red.  Besides, what is authorized by the Constitution doesn’t mean required by the Constitution.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Feb
    7
    9:21
    AM
    Rob

    It is debatable as to the extent that the Postal Service is a government agency, but if Congress can dictate how an organization spends its budget that pretty well describes a government agency in my book.

    I found it interesting that Congress placed the onus of finding savings on the Postal Service, yet, when Secretary Gates attempted to cut programs from the DoD budget to find savings Congress disregarded the advice of those whose responsibility it is to protect the country. Congress knows best, right?

    We need to look no further than the V-22 Osprey program to witness the blatant double standards that Congress uses to formulate appropriations. This program now has achieved the milestone of producing a product of dubious effectiveness 30 years after the initial contract was awarded with each product costing twice as much as the entire program to create them.

    But every agency has been directed to run “Government like a business” and do more with less since the 1980′s. And every time an agency dares to cut spending in any way contrary to the wishes of Congress we are disregarded.

    We will have to see if Congress thwarts another attempt of an agency to save the taxpayer some money.

  2. Feb
    7
    11:57
    AM
    David Kyle, DO

    As a physician I have had the pleasure of meeting several letter carriers and finding out more of the nature of the problem. The problem is not the inefficiency of the postal service or government unions but again the stupidity of the “government.”. I seems an unfunded mandate has been forced upon them which is bleeding them dry. It would be best to put it to rest but they could at least pay into it at more reasonable and responsible rate but congress will not let them. Very fixable if one has enlightened leadership in government, but not the kind we have now.

  3. Feb
    7
    3:18
    PM
    Drik

    The mandate is that every place will have a post office and it will charge a set rate, even if the volume or the geographic location can’t justify it. So bad that it was cheaper for one contractor to mail individual bricks to an Alaskan post office rather than pay for the cost to ship them there himself. Redistribution. Not even paid for by the business of the people in the high volume places. Instead, operated at a loss covered by taxpayers.

  4. Feb
    8
    5:28
    PM
    MoreFreedom

    I, for one, would like to see the elimination of the post office monopoly, and allow other companies to arise and offer mail delivery. Who knows what they might come up with. But I’ll bet heavily that whatever they do come up with, it will be less expensive and provide better service.

    Whenever government runs businesses, it does a lousy job of it.

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