Schubart: Rural Free Delivery

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Commentator Bill Schubart’s daily encounter with the garter snake
living in his mailbox has caused him to question the utility of having a
mailbox anyway. So even though the vandals who routinely bash his
mailbox might miss it greatly, he’s not sure he will.

think the heat-drunk garter snake living in our mail box is an omen. As
I lower the battered cover and reach gingerly inside to get our mail, I
wonder if the battered mailbox itself isn’t an artifact of a bygone

The iconic US Postal system is bankrupt. Its valiant history
calls up the pony express, postmen and women bearing parcels trudging
through knee-deep Christmas snows, country stores with mailboxes on the
wall. Could this all be history? Should it be?

It makes little
sense for thousands of postal workers to drive cars or vans, or push
handcarts to every doorstep in America six days a week to deliver a
handful of catalogs, magazines, credit card offers, sale flyers and
donation requests.

In a good week, my wife and I get one or two
1st class letters of any substance. In a similar week, we get a thousand
emails, many of which bring news from family, friends and loved ones.

be honest. Email has supplanted 1st class mail as a means of staying in
touch. It’s free and immediate even though it lacks the beauty and
significance of a well-penned letter that can be held, read, and
treasured. Old fashion letters often expressed sentiment in the sender’s
choice of stationary, an expressive stamp or, in even earlier days, the
sender’s favorite scent.

Today we need to limit delivery to
local post offices and charge for home delivery. Private contractors
might manage these deliveries as they do with newspaper and parcel
services. Home delivery six days a week is an unnecessary luxury. Those
who still depend on it should be treated as a special class. Those of us
who don’t should let it go. In truth, very little of the mail I remove
from the mailbox even makes it to the house. I toss it in recycling on
the way in.

Raise the price of 1st class to reflect its actual
value, cost and rarity. Businesses get preferential rates for many of
their mailings even though most business transactions like marketing,
purchasing and billing have moved to the Web. Print catalogs are still
mailed as they enable consumer browsing which remains difficult online.

we must curtail non-essential federal services except to those for whom
they remain essential. Maintaining traditional postal services and
standards for those of us who no longer need them is a waste of money
that could be better invested elsewhere in the social contract. I’d be
happy to either pick up my mail as I pass through town or pay extra for
three day a week delivery.

I’ll miss our dented mailbox and its
somnolent resident. I’ll miss resetting the post every spring after the
snowplow finishes the wreckage of the night-riding vandals. We do need
our postal system but must rescale it for today’s needs. We can’t afford
to maintain a revered tradition with diminishing utility.

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