07/07/10 — Efficiency first: Another example of why government enterprises do not work

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Efficiency first: Another example of why government enterprises do not work

Let's face it, we knew it was coming.

Tuesday afternoon, the Postal Service announced that the price of stamps would be going up two cents.

The reality is, two cents is not going to break the average postal customer. But where it does matter is when businesses that use the Postal Service get to the counter and do the math and see their costs have skyrocketed. That will have an effect in the stores -- and, in turn, on the consumer.

But that is not why this postage increase is worth talking about.

The Postal Service is another example of what happens when government bureaucrats try to run large enterprises.

As the Postal Service faced the advent of e-mail, e-cards, online bill pay and other changes that came along with technology, its leaders found that it was not competing well, and that if something was not done soon, the organization would be fiscally insolvent. And now, surprise, surprise, it is nearly there.

The rise in postage rates is not a surprise. If you are taking in less money, you need to charge more.

But what is scary about the move is that it is an example of why huge government-run enterprises are not the best of ideas in this fast-paced business world. They do not move quickly enough to make the changes -- and the cuts -- necessary to survive in an environment that requires that sort of decision-making. They are not leaders when they need to be -- and are not predisposed to the kind of planning that makes them market leaders that can pay their own bills.

They are -- as a rule -- a bad idea. And don't think the Postal Service is the only agent of the federal government that has run into trouble.

Just look around. Start with Social Security and the welfare system if you are not sure where to begin.

And that, in a nutshell, is why so many people are so concerned about government having any kind of say in how their health care is administered, distributed and managed.

They do not want to face yet another bureaucratic nightmare.

There are plenty of good quality people who work for the Postal Service, and they provide a service that has been critical to this country for generations.

But like any other government-run effort, it simply cannot compete with the fast-paced delivery services in its category -- and because it is a government entity, it probably really isn't supposed to.

And that's why we need to think long and hard about creating yet another one.

Published in Editorials on July 7, 2010 10:42 AM