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.