The U.S. Postal Service and how it can be reimagined

Two scholars disagree about the future of the USPS, but both think its 31,000 outlets should be for more than mail delivery.

President Biden has signed a law intended to give the United States Postal Service better financial footing, in order to ensure its continued existence. Problems facing the institution have been highlighted in recent years, ranging from operational issues to political interest.

The postal service has been part of America’s critical infrastructure for decades. But with the rise of the internet, email, and private competitors, many are wondering what purpose the USPS serves and what its potential capabilities are.

While the new law is modest in its practical implications, it could be the start to some new thinking around a very old American institution.

“Instead of every government department having its own department, you use the post office as the community hub.” — Ian Lee, Carleton University


Listen: The significance of the postal service in the daily lives of Americans.

 


Guests

Monique Morrissey is an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning economic think tank. She says the postal service is important because leaving it to the private sector would mean many rural residents are left out of critical public services.

“When it comes to basic utilities, networks, then it’s never going to be competitive,” says Morrissey. “There’s always going to be an advantage to the big player who delivers every day,” says Morrissey.

Ian Lee is an associate professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. While Lee believes post offices should not be used for banking, he thinks they should provide more services for community residents.

“Driver’s licenses, hunting licenses, fishing licenses, government checks — a government resource center for all things government,” says Lee. “For the interface, for the face to face, instead of every government department having its own department, you use the post office as the community hub.”

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