I’ve made no secret of my love of mail, the post office, stamps, stationary and cards. Mail is almost magical. I write a letter, thank you note or check for a bill, drop it in the mailbox and within hours, it arrives at its destination. Magic!
The best part of the post office: it’s required by law, since roughly the Second Continental Congress, to serve all Americans regardless of geography, at a uniform price. This is the real magic. We decided as a country that it matters for all of us to be able to communicate no matter where we live.
Beginning in the 30s, we took this a step further. In the Communications Act of 1934, there is reference to phone service to every American. Through a series of steps and changes, in 1997 the Universal Service Fund was born. This fund ensures every American has access to a telephone line, which today means the Internet and an enormous wealth of information.
I personally believe these two things, along with the public school system, are the backbone of democracy. A democracy only works when people have access to information and the ability to communicate with one another.
Last night on Twitter, someone made a crack about how the Post Office eventually was going to dissolve because it’s losing too much money. He’s not the first person to say something stupid on Twitter, but he got under my skin.
Of course, private delivery companies make money and post office doesn’t. Private companies get to pick profitable places to deliver, at their own pace and charge whatever they want. They are not mandated to deliver parcels to the far reaches of civilization. They are not required to never be closed more than 48 hours at a time.
Also, for the past five decades, every first-term Congressman who wanted to be a second-term Congressman got himself photographed at the ribbon cutting of the new post office he was able to get opened in his district. Politics is a lousy way to run a business. This is why it makes sense to evaluate and make business decisions about which post offices to keep open and which ones to close. This does not mean the entire system is failing.
Somewhere along the way, a group of Americans seem to have totally lost sight of what government is supposed to be. Government is the great equalizer, which is to say, we are all equal under the law. No matter your race, religion, ethnicity or geography, we will make sure you have the opportunity to learn and the opportunity to tell others what you think. Government is supposed to keep open the marketplace of ideas 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In return, we taxpayers will do whatever it takes to be sure the lights stay on and the audio works in that marketplace… because any of us might have something to say, and every single one of us matters.
So today I will celebrate democracy by mailing thank you notes. Because I can.