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  #1  
Old 10-09-2011, 11:28 PM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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  #2  
Old 10-10-2011, 12:42 AM
Don Zeko Don Zeko is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

The Winston-Salem DMV is pretty decent too, for what it's worth. you stand in line for a minute or two, describe your reason for visiting and then get a number. When your number is called you go to a desk and talk to people that are reasonably polite and helpful.
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  #3  
Old 10-10-2011, 02:19 AM
chiwhisoxx chiwhisoxx is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Zeko View Post
The Winston-Salem DMV is pretty decent too, for what it's worth. you stand in line for a minute or two, describe your reason for visiting and then get a number. When your number is called you go to a desk and talk to people that are reasonably polite and helpful.
is winston-salem located in a parallel universe?
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  #4  
Old 10-10-2011, 05:49 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by chiwhisoxx View Post
is winston-salem located in a parallel universe?
Meh, I had a similar experience at a DMV in downtown Chicago.
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  #5  
Old 10-10-2011, 06:46 AM
TwinSwords TwinSwords is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by miceelf View Post
Meh, I had a similar experience at a DMV in downtown Chicago.
Same here, in Michigan. All my life, the services provided by the Secretary of State (we don't have separate DMV), in offices throughout the state, have been excellent. It never takes more than a couple of minutes to renew a license, transfer a title, buy a permit, or whatever.

For a few years after college I lived in Ohio, where these services had been outsourced to the free market -- and they were terrible. First thing I needed to do in the state was get an Ohio driver's license, and the process was so poorly managed and byzantine that I eventually gave up. I was dating a girl from Kentucky at the time, so after a few weeks of fighting with Ohio's disastrous free market system, I went across the river, walked into a Kentucky DMV, and used my girlfriend's address to get a Kentucky license. It took about five minutes to go in, get a license, and walk out. This was typical of all the other DMV-type activities I needed to perform while I lived on the Ohio/Kentucky border.

The slam on the DMV is like the wingnut attacks on the post office: fact free and motivated by ideology.

Last edited by TwinSwords; 10-10-2011 at 06:53 AM..
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  #6  
Old 10-10-2011, 08:04 AM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

I've had driving licenses in three states. NY was the first, it was very crowded but not a problem even when I was trading a driving license from another country. That was many years ago. The other two licenses, NJ and WA were easy and uncrowded.

Now if we want to talk about bureaucracy, we could talk about getting a license to practice medicine in the State of New Jersey... The other two (NY and WA) were a piece of cake.
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  #7  
Old 10-10-2011, 09:47 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by TwinSwords View Post
Same here, in Michigan. All my life, the services provided by the Secretary of State (we don't have separate DMV), in offices throughout the state, have been excellent. It never takes more than a couple of minutes to renew a license, transfer a title, buy a permit, or whatever.
Although, to be fair, I have had bad experiecnes with the DMV in suburban chicago.

In that case, though, the issue wasn't so much the workers, as it was the idiot other people trying to get their licenses. (I think the complaints about the quality of public services often- not always- have more to do with the other customers than with the services themselves. See my recent post on boarding planes.

If you want an actual example of a horrific and kafkaesque government bureaucracy run amok, try applying for permanent residence and dealing with USCIS.
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  #8  
Old 10-10-2011, 11:11 AM
chiwhisoxx chiwhisoxx is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by miceelf View Post
Although, to be fair, I have had bad experiecnes with the DMV in suburban chicago.

In that case, though, the issue wasn't so much the workers, as it was the idiot other people trying to get their licenses. (I think the complaints about the quality of public services often- not always- have more to do with the other customers than with the services themselves. See my recent post on boarding planes.

If you want an actual example of a horrific and kafkaesque government bureaucracy run amok, try applying for permanent residence and dealing with USCIS.
Very bad experiences in suburban chicago.

anyway, the moonbat defenders of DMV's are just like all liberals: fact free and whatever else TS said! See, I can do it too. Simply because you have a few anecdotes of good experiences at DMV's does not mean they're great across the board. It's not like the complains about DMV's come just from conservatives, it's an across the board phenomenon.
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  #9  
Old 10-10-2011, 12:06 PM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by chiwhisoxx View Post
anyway, the moonbat defenders of DMV's are just like all liberals: fact free and whatever else TS said! See, I can do it too. Simply because you have a few anecdotes of good experiences at DMV's does not mean they're great across the board. It's not like the complains about DMV's come just from conservatives, it's an across the board phenomenon.
The difference is that one is making a claim about how DMZs are across the board and the others are talking about their own anecdotal experiences that counter those generalizations. It's on the ones making the generalizations to back up their claims, not the ones whose experiences are inconsistent with those generalizations. I and Don Zeko reported the facts of our experiences. Those who are critics of DMVs generally are claiming that they are bad across the board without having any facts to back this up.
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  #10  
Old 10-10-2011, 02:56 PM
TwinSwords TwinSwords is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by miceelf View Post
The difference is that one is making a claim about how DMZs are across the board and the others are talking about their own anecdotal experiences that counter those generalizations. It's on the ones making the generalizations to back up their claims, not the ones whose experiences are inconsistent with those generalizations.
Yep.

And it's not quite accurate to say we're depending on "a few anecdotes of good experiences." What I have is a lifetime of experience over a period of decades. I go to the Secretary of State 2-3 times a year, and have for about 25 years. That amounts to more than "a few anecdotes."


Quote:
Originally Posted by miceelf View Post
I and Don Zeko reported the facts of our experiences. Those who are critics of DMVs generally are claiming that they are bad across the board without having any facts to back this up.
Those who are critics of the DMV aren't basing their critique on fact; they're basing it on ideology. It's the same with the post office. The US Postal Service is amazingly effective. I've never had a lost piece of mail in my life. Delivery speeds are consistently impressive. But wingnuts attack it because their ideology demands it, whatever the truth.
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  #11  
Old 10-10-2011, 03:11 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

Quote:
Originally Posted by TwinSwords View Post
Those who are critics of the DMV aren't basing their critique on fact; they're basing it on ideology. It's the same with the post office. The US Postal Service is amazingly effective. I've never had a lost piece of mail in my life. Delivery speeds are consistently impressive. But wingnuts attack it because their ideology demands it, whatever the truth.
I think there's a slightly different explanation. Large institutions and bureaucracies are often annoying to deal with. As a result, many people have had bad experiences with government offices. I'm sure many people have also had bad experiences with representatives of large companies (insurance companies are a good example, but my bank one is another), as well as with low-level employees who don't care much about their employer more generally (retail clerks at certain kinds of stores). But in the US we also have a lot of anti-government rhetoric, so it's easy to fit the individual bad gov't experiences into this model without necessarily thinking about the full range of experience, both the more positive governmental ones and the negative business ones.

Plus, to a certain extent, these kinds of interactions with the government are ones that are required, that one generally has to deal with as a price of exercising certain privileges vs. ones that you choose. For example, the staff at Best Buy may irritate me and give crummy service, but chances are I want something there, so aren't as irritated as when I have to deal with the IRS or fight a ticket or mess around with the DMV or jump hoops at INS or whatever. That's why examples like my bank one or the insurance company ones are better parallels.

Anecdotally, my sense is that across the board most of these kinds of interactions are improving, including the formerly dreaded cable company dealings and even ComEd.
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  #12  
Old 10-10-2011, 08:22 PM
TwinSwords TwinSwords is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

Quote:
Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
I think there's a slightly different explanation. Large institutions and bureaucracies are often annoying to deal with.
Well, okay. I think for non-ideological people there is some truth to this. But how often do you hear "the DMV sucks" from non-ideological people, outside of the context of an attack on the very idea of government efficiency? Speaking for myself, I would say "never," or maybe "almost never." I don't think it's what Matt Welch, or Newt Gingrich, mean when they talk about the DMV.

I mean, I *do* hear normal, non-ideological people express annoyance that they have to even bother getting their license or plates renewed in the first place, but this strikes me as categorically different from what we're talking about here: a critique of government vs. private enterprise. The attack on the DMV in the context of government vs. private enterprise seems to me to always be part of some rightwing or libertarian argument about the inherent inefficiency of government -- just like the fact-free attacks on the post office. It has been a standard right wing talking point as long as I've been alive, and probably longer. It doesn't matter to the right how efficient the post office is in reality. Reality is beside the point. They don't need to understand reality, because at the level of abstract ideology they have pre-determined that no matter what, anything the government does is automatically inefficient relative to the private sector.

The problem, as always, with the right in this case is they are impervious to reality: to the efficiencies of government, and the occasional inefficiencies of the private sector.


Quote:
Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
But in the US we also have a lot of anti-government rhetoric, so it's easy to fit the individual bad gov't experiences into this model without necessarily thinking about the full range of experience, both the more positive governmental ones and the negative business ones.
I think this is a great point. People in this country have been exposed to so much right wing propaganda for so long that they have been conditioned to believe certain lunatic notions of the conservative movement, so that, as you say, one bad experience is immediately understood as part of the phenomenon they have been conditioned to believe after a decades-long propaganda effort.


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Originally Posted by stephanie View Post
Plus, to a certain extent, these kinds of interactions with the government are ones that are required, that one generally has to deal with as a price of exercising certain privileges vs. ones that you choose.
Another very good point. Where I work we used to have a corporate help desk that was a model of efficiency. I work for a global corporation with employees on every continent (okay, not Antarctica), so the help desk has to provide 24/7 support in multiple languages.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was enormous concern for "client satisfaction," so a lot of money was spent on a help desk that provided high levels of service. Then the outsourcing started, and "cost control" became the most important thing. Now the whole operation sucks, and employees absolutely hate having to call the help desk for anything. Whole parallel, informal processes have sprung up throughout the company (kind of like a black market for tech support, you might say) because the quality of the official help desk is so poor. I think it's important to recognize that the private market, in its drive to control costs, often trades good service for very bad service.

This is what we saw in Ohio when the DMV was outsourced. The system ran fine until it was handed over to private enterprise, costs were cut, and efficiency went out the window.

Last edited by TwinSwords; 10-11-2011 at 11:15 PM..
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  #13  
Old 10-10-2011, 08:32 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

John Cole on post office:

Quote:
Another day, another piece on the financial troubles of the Post Office.

Folks, it is time for a paradigm shift. We need to stop thinking of those as losses, but the cost of a service. I have no idea why people have decided the Post Office needs to run like a business, with profits each year or be damned, but it is insane. This is a basic service that government can and should provide. And it is an amazing service. For the price of half a soda, you can mail anything you want, and in a day or two it gets there. EVEN ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY. You can drop a letter in the mailbox in New York, get in the car and drive nonstop to California, and odds are the letter will beat you. I know we’re all in the age of the internet and expect everything instantly, but that’s still pretty amazing.

If you ask me, if it only costs us 9 billion a year (which is what the estimated losses are this year) to have the mail delivered to everyone in the country, then that is pretty damned good.

*** Update ***

You really need to see the staggering idiocy on display here.
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  #14  
Old 10-10-2011, 10:53 PM
TwinSwords TwinSwords is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
John Cole on post office:
Thanks, Eb. Good post; John Cole is definitely right.

The post office is a clear example of the private vs. public model. The public model is open to anyone, the private model is open to whomever the hell the private powers want it to be open to.

What's the difference between a private park and a public park? Anyone can use a public park. You can only go to a private park if they let you in, and if you have the money.

What's the difference between a private school and a public school? Anyone can attend a public school. You can only attend a private school if they agree to take you and you can afford it.

The public Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid models are the same: everyone gets to participate, no matter what their means. The Republicans favor private systems that would deny coverage to millions of people, even if this means they will die of homelessness or untreated medical conditions.

Same with the post office: the post office will deliver mail anywhere there's an address. The private systems, which the conservatives laud, will only deliver where a profit can be made.
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  #15  
Old 10-10-2011, 11:16 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

I recently sent something via UPS* and found that the experience was only marginally better than the USPS (and WAY more expensive.) Warning: use your own packing! Otherwise you will pay a fortune.

Another interesting comparison (I think) is AAA vs. DMV. I love AAA for DMV services (renewals etc.) but I think the biggest reason the experience is more pleasant at AAA is because they only offer about 1/5th of the services that the DMV does, and thus have a much smaller line of people. The biggest issue as I see it for the Post Office or DMV is that they deal with a volume of people that is impossible to handle without large levels of annoyance. Throw enough people at ANY organization (public or private), and it will have it's hands full. Just ask stadium concession sales, airlines, etc. etc.

As you say, the problem is that conservatives don't care about efficiency except as a tool for profit. Libraries, public universities, the Vet hospitals, the New York subway...they can't be good!! Where's the profit??1?

*Note: this was at a UPS store. Apparently the fleecing is lighter if you go to an actual UPS distribution center. The UPS Store (tm) is where they REALLY get you.
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Last edited by uncle ebeneezer; 10-11-2011 at 12:03 AM.. Reason: added
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  #16  
Old 10-10-2011, 11:55 PM
TwinSwords TwinSwords is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
I recently sent something via UPS and found that the experience was only marginally better than the USPS (and WAY more expensive.) Warning: use your own packing! Otherwise you will pay a fortune.

Another interesting comparison (I think) is AAA vs. DMV. I love AAA for DMV services (renewals etc.) but I think the biggest reason the experience is more pleasant at AAA is because they only offer about 1/5th of the services that the DMV does, and thus have a much smaller line of people. The biggest issue as I see it for the Post Office or DMV is that they deal with a volume of people that is impossible to handle without large levels of annoyance. Throw enough people at ANY organization (public or private), and it will have it's hands full. Just ask stadium concession sales, airlines, etc. etc.

As you say, the problem is that conservatives don't care about efficiency except as a tool for profit. Libraries, public universities, the Vet hospitals, the New York subway...they can't be good!! Where's the profit??1?
Heh.

Speaking of UPS, a couple of weeks ago I was having something delivered and it was damaged in transit and sent back. The order was cancelled, so I had to go back to the online retailer and reorder.

In my life, by contrast, I've never had the post office lose anything. I've never even seen a delay in mail delivery with the US Postal Service.

Obviously I'm not saying they're perfect. But the reality is 180 degrees from the wingnut hysterics.
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  #17  
Old 10-11-2011, 11:34 AM
bkjazfan bkjazfan is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

Obviously the USPS business model is dated. They have lost most of their package delivery to UPS and Fed Ex. These competitors unlike the post office pay taxes, vehicle registration fees, make a profit, and receive no loans from the government. Now, many send letters via email, pay bills online, and rarely use first class mail except to write a loved one in prison.

In 2010 they lost 10 billion dollars and are billions behind in their pension fund. Changes have to be made. Personally, I could receive mail 2 times a week and live with that OK. At a minimum Saturday delivery should be axed. Whatever else they do the goal is to become fiscally solvent which they are currently failing at.

Last edited by bkjazfan; 10-11-2011 at 11:38 AM..
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  #18  
Old 10-11-2011, 03:05 PM
thouartgob thouartgob is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by bkjazfan View Post
Obviously the USPS business model is dated. They have lost most of their package delivery to UPS and Fed Ex. These competitors unlike the post office pay taxes, vehicle registration fees, make a profit, and receive no loans from the government. Now, many send letters via email, pay bills online, and rarely use first class mail except to write a loved one in prison.

In 2010 they lost 10 billion dollars and are billions behind in their pension fund. Changes have to be made. Personally, I could receive mail 2 times a week and live with that OK. At a minimum Saturday delivery should be axed. Whatever else they do the goal is to become fiscally solvent which they are currently failing at.
Another thing that USPS that their competitors don't have to do ( or any other govt. agency for that matter ) is “prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span”. If it wasn't for the lame duck congress passing Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act in 2006 the Postal Service would arguably be in 1.5 billion in the black. The deficit is mostly caused by this attempt at privatization ( passed by voice vote in House/unanimous consent senate, meaning no record of the individual votes kept) . Tough to run the service when the people in charge of the purse want you gone.
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Old 10-11-2011, 08:58 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

With all due respect to both you and Mr. Cole, this quote is straw man:
Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
John Cole on post officeAnother day, another piece on the financial troubles of the Post Office.

Folks, it is time for a paradigm shift. We need to stop thinking of those as losses, but the cost of a service. I have no idea why people have decided the Post Office needs to run like a business, with profits each year or be damned, but it is insane. This is a basic service that government can and should provide. And it is an amazing service. For the price of half a soda, you can mail anything you want, and in a day or two it gets there. EVEN ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY. You can drop a letter in the mailbox in New York, get in the car and drive nonstop to California, and odds are the letter will beat you. I know we’re all in the age of the internet and expect everything instantly, but that’s still pretty amazing.

If you ask me, if it only costs us 9 billion a year (which is what the estimated losses are this year) to have the mail delivered to everyone in the country, then that is pretty damned good.

*** Update ***

You really need to see the staggering idiocy on display here.
The question isn't (or shouldn't be) whether or not $9 billion a year is a bargain for mail service. The question is whether it would be possible for the private sector to do the same job for zero public dollars, or at least a lot fewer than are spent at the moment.

Canada, the U.K., Germany, New Zealand, Japan (sorta) -- these are just a few countries that have privatized their postal systems and to my knowledge, they haven't had their societies collapse. Nor are they Randian hellholes where only the rich get the mail. The bidding should be on a public utility basis (e.g., for universal service) and subject to periodic competitive bidding.

There is no reason to believe that companies like FedEx or UPS couldn't do exactly what the USPS does, better and/or more cheaply than Uncle Sam. Heck, set the USPS free and it will do better too, I'd wager. The same could be said of Amtrak, the air-traffic control system, public broadcasting-- the list is endless. One could point to Sweden's (Sweden!) privately administered pension system as another big area where public provision could be handled better by the private sector.

Given that the fiscal shape the U.S. is in, we all need to think about exactly what the government should and shouldn't be doing in the economy. The standard answer on the left, namely, "Everything that the private sector might conceivably do less than perfectly," is no answer at all--unless you want to see the U.S. start looking like Zimbabwe.
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Last edited by rfrobison; 10-11-2011 at 09:05 AM.. Reason: "hell hole">>hellhole; missing comma; missing "about"; inserted dash
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  #20  
Old 10-11-2011, 09:41 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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The question isn't (or shouldn't be) whether or not $9 billion a year is a bargain for mail service. The question is whether it would be possible for the private sector to do the same job for zero public dollars, or at least a lot fewer than are spent at the moment.
This is the problem with all government services. Once they are established and entrenched, folks just don't see how they can do without them.

randian hellhole...clever.
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  #21  
Old 10-11-2011, 09:49 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by rfrobison View Post
Canada, the U.K., Germany, New Zealand, Japan (sorta) -- these are just a few countries that have privatized their postal systems and to my knowledge, they haven't had their societies collapse. Nor are they Randian hellholes where only the rich get the mail. The bidding should be on a public utility basis (e.g., for universal service) and subject to periodic competitive bidding.
Canada?

When, exactly, did this happen?
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  #22  
Old 10-11-2011, 10:58 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by miceelf View Post
Canada?

When, exactly, did this happen?
Ah, wasn't sure about Canada. If that was in error, I stand corrected. The others have, in fact, been privatized.
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  #23  
Old 10-14-2011, 02:25 PM
laura laura is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

Er, not the UK either. Enabling legislation has been passed but Royal Mail plc has not yet been sold, so still plenty of time for the randian hellhole to develop. Talk seems to be of selling it by 2015, so your post could come right given enough time.
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  #24  
Old 10-14-2011, 02:40 PM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Er, not the UK either. Enabling legislation has been passed but Royal Mail plc has not yet been sold, so still plenty of time for the randian hellhole to develop. Talk seems to be of selling it by 2015, so your post could come right given enough time.
And, at least, reading some of the editorials in the UK, the parallels with the concerns Canadians had when this got raised are very similar. Let's just say it's not universally regarded as an unmitigated good.
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Old 10-14-2011, 05:20 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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And, at least, reading some of the editorials in the UK, the parallels with the concerns Canadians had when this got raised are very similar. Let's just say it's not universally regarded as an unmitigated good.
Why don't they just raise the regular postage to $1 or $2? We probably would be able to save money in unnecessary paper, our garbage collectors would go lighter, and local businesses will have to figure out a different way of advertising which promotes creativity and perhaps creates new jobs as well.
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  #26  
Old 10-11-2011, 12:47 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

Your wager on UPS being able to do the same the job as the USPS better, sounds a bit like a free-market-fairy fantasy. I'm not saying that it couldn't. I don't know enough about the operations of either. But I think the assumption that the private sector can do ANYTHING the public can and better, has it's limits.

What if, as Twin points out, UPS and Fedex can only be profitable by serving a far smaller geographical area? Do you think that an American taxpayer should have the rightful expectation of being able to send/receive mail from their residence?
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Old 10-11-2011, 07:05 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
Your wager on UPS being able to do the same the job as the USPS better, sounds a bit like a free-market-fairy fantasy. I'm not saying that it couldn't. I don't know enough about the operations of either. But I think the assumption that the private sector can do ANYTHING the public can and better, has it's limits.

What if, as Twin points out, UPS and Fedex can only be profitable by serving a far smaller geographical area? Do you think that an American taxpayer should have the rightful expectation of being able to send/receive mail from their residence?
I think you could structure the contract in such a way as to require the contractor to provide universal service and let the company decide how best to go about it. It is likely that prices for some deliveries would rise for some people. Infrequent mailers would no doubt pay more to send things cross country than bulk mailers sending stuff across town, but that doesn't strike me as inherently unfair.

Again, we have examples of countries that have privatized their mail delivery, and they seem to do OK. Maybe there is something about the U.S. that makes privatization impossible, but I can't think what it might be.

As for whether the private sector can do ANYTHING better than the government, of course I agree that it cannot. I think talk of abolishing public schools is nonsense; I wouldn't want mercenaries defending U.S. borders.

The point is the government should look at ways to do fewer things, better. Rather than more things, badly. The postal service is pretty small potatoes either way. It was just an example.
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Last edited by rfrobison; 10-11-2011 at 07:06 PM.. Reason: punctuation, caps
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Old 10-11-2011, 09:10 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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The question is whether it would be possible for the private sector to do the same job for zero public dollars, or at least a lot fewer than are spent at the moment. .... There is no reason to believe that companies like FedEx or UPS couldn't do exactly what the USPS does, better and/or more cheaply than Uncle Sam.
The fact that no private companies are doing what the post office does for less seems like a pretty good reason to believe that they can't in fact do so and make what they consider an acceptable profit. FedEx and UPS have essentially taken the cream from the delivery service and left that business they can't profitably compete with. I can contract with either service to send a package containing a letter, a check in payment of debt, or anything else that I might otherwise chose. I cannot do so for the price the post office charges. The answer to "the question" you pose above appears to be "no".
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Old 10-11-2011, 09:16 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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The fact that no private companies are doing what the post office does for less seems like a pretty good reason to believe that they can't in fact do so and make what they consider an acceptable profit. FedEx and UPS have essentially taken the cream from the delivery service and left that business they can't profitably compete with. I can contract with either service to send a package containing a letter, a check in payment of debt, or anything else that I might otherwise chose. I cannot do so for the price the post office charges. The answer to "the question" you pose above appears to be "no".
Again, I don't see why that need be so. How do you explain the fact that other countries have successfully privatized their postal services? As for why private sector doesn't do everything the USPS does, the answer is simple: They are prohibited from delivering first class mail by law. Again, I don't see why this is the case, other than that the postal service has an interest in protecting its legal monopoly.
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Old 10-11-2011, 09:29 PM
cragger cragger is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

That which is sent through private carriers may not be called "first class mail" or have whatever legal status that classification entails, but I am unaware of any restriction that prevents the contents of an envelope or package sent by private carrier from being identical with that sent via the post office. Whatever situation may obtain in other countries, "the question" as you put it. in the US, is whether we or I can get the service provided by the post office for less from a for-profit carrier. Given that we have alternate carriers competing with the post office at this very moment, it seems clear that for those classes of material that the post office now carries the answer is no.
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Old 10-12-2011, 12:00 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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That which is sent through private carriers may not be called "first class mail" or have whatever legal status that classification entails, but I am unaware of any restriction that prevents the contents of an envelope or package sent by private carrier from being identical with that sent via the post office. Whatever situation may obtain in other countries, "the question" as you put it. in the US, is whether we or I can get the service provided by the post office for less from a for-profit carrier. Given that we have alternate carriers competing with the post office at this very moment, it seems clear that for those classes of material that the post office now carries the answer is no.
The question isn't strictly whether it can be done for less money, but less public money. I see no reason why I should have to subsidize someone else's mail delivery.

As for the rest, your answer to the question seems to boil down to "America is different. We have nothing to learn from other countries."

Good to know that American exceptionalism is alive and well on the left side of the aisle.
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Old 10-12-2011, 12:23 AM
Starwatcher162536 Starwatcher162536 is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

I thought the USPS wasn't funded through public money, ie taxes, but instead through fees for service. It is as of now being funded by governmental loans, but as thouartgob mentions up-thread this is only the result of mandates on the USPS that probably no private company could survive if it had to also comply with said mandate. So under normal situations little if any public money is used. This would seem to be an ideal situation as the state has an interest to ensure communication and transport, even in times of high volatility, but near direct competition by entities such as FedEx prevents much of the ills associated with monopolies and state programs.

I'm not going to say this is true with certainty since all I know about it comes from thougobart's post which is sourced from something I am not predisposed to take at face value, but it does seem this is a case of those not liking government purposely making government run badly to use as an excuse later for killing government they don't like.
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Old 10-12-2011, 11:05 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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I thought the USPS wasn't funded through public money, ie taxes, but instead through fees for service. It is as of now being funded by governmental loans, but as thouartgob mentions up-thread this is only the result of mandates on the USPS that probably no private company could survive if it had to also comply with said mandate. So under normal situations little if any public money is used. This would seem to be an ideal situation as the state has an interest to ensure communication and transport, even in times of high volatility, but near direct competition by entities such as FedEx prevents much of the ills associated with monopolies and state programs.

I'm not going to say this is true with certainty since all I know about it comes from thougobart's post which is sourced from something I am not predisposed to take at face value, but it does seem this is a case of those not liking government purposely making government run badly to use as an excuse later for killing government they don't like.
I suppose. But the proposition could be turned around just as easily: People who refuse to acknowledge the possibility that a privatized postal service could literally deliver the goods at little or no cost to the public purse despite the fact that there are real live countries that have such systems at this very instant seems to indicate a love of government provision for its own sake, perhaps out of simple fear of change or perhaps for partisan reasons. (i.e., The more public-sector, unionized workers there are, the better for Democrats; who, when elected, will vote to raise taxes and/or expand the size of government, thereby requiring more workers for the government sector, who in turn will tend to vote their economic interest and support more Democrats... ad infinitum -- or until we're all completely tapped out, as Greece is today!)

But this discussion has veered into absurdity and pointlessness. The postal service will remain in government hands. The government isn't going to wither away. Any attempt to scale it back is met with howls of "Libertarianism!"

Far from starving, the government is like a fat kid who, after gobbling up all the fries on his plate, proceeds to steal everybody else's as well. When his mom tries to cut his ice cream dessert back he yells: "What are you trying to do, STARVE ME TO DEATH?"

I predict the U.S. will, in 50 years or less, look a lot like Argentina does today: A once rich country that finds itself among the second rate economies of the world because it could not square its appetite for government with its ability and willingness to pay for it. I can only thank my lucky stars that I (probably) won't be around to lament what was lost.
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Last edited by rfrobison; 10-12-2011 at 11:07 AM.. Reason: punctuation
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  #34  
Old 10-12-2011, 11:15 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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I suppose. But the proposition could be turned around just as easily: People who refuse to acknowledge the possibility that a privatized postal service could literally deliver the goods at little or no cost to the public purse despite the fact that there are real live countries that have such systems at this very instant seems to indicate a love of government provision for its own sake, perhaps out of simple fear of change or perhaps for partisan reasons.
I understand your concern, but it's important to highlight that those countries have much more regulation of the mail "utilities" than is usually the case here. They do this to ensure that mail remains affordable and that rural and low population areas continue to have access to the service and that workers are fairly compensated. (and if you think regulations to these effects aren't important, try getting satellite tv or reliable cell phone service in some rural parts of the country).

But once privatized, the next big push for the conservatives will be to remove the "onerous" regulations from the private company; my next prediction will be that conservatives will return to their usual stance of "who cares what BRITAIN does? this is America!!" I see your cries of "libertarianism!" in other words, and raise you a "socialism!"
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Old 10-12-2011, 11:36 AM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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I understand your concern, but it's important to highlight that those countries have much more regulation of the mail "utilities" than is usually the case here. They do this to ensure that mail remains affordable and that rural and low population areas continue to have access to the service and that workers are fairly compensated. (and if you think regulations to these effects aren't important, try getting satellite tv or reliable cell phone service in some rural parts of the country).

But once privatized, the next big push for the conservatives will be to remove the "onerous" regulations from the private company; my next prediction will be that conservatives will return to their usual stance of "who cares what BRITAIN does? this is America!!" I see your cries of "libertarianism!" in other words, and raise you a "socialism!"
I tried to answer that objection in my earlier post here.

As I said before, I'm not wedded to the idea that the postal service should be privatized. In all honesty I've not really thought about it much before Uncle Eb first mentioned it upthread. My larger point, long since lost, I fear, is that there must be things that can be done to shrink the size of government without adversely affecting the quality of life. It cannot be that every single program (bar defense, of course) is optimal in its design and execution. Surely there must be SOME things the government is currently doing that it shouldn't be, just as there surely are things it SHOULD be doing that it isn't.

We have a big problem in the way the U.S. government's fiscal resources are raised and allocated, some of which Mr. Frank elucidated in his discussion with Mr. Welch. I'm thinking specifically of the payroll tax, but I think his idea for road congestion charges is a sound one as well.

I've said before, more times than I can count now, I'd gladly trade a return to the Clinton administration's tax rates if President Obama would give serious backing to the recommendations of his OWN bipartisan deficit reduction panel. What'd he do? He ignored it and went for a symbolically powerful but fiscally meaningless "soak the rich" strategy.

"Vanity, vanity all is vanity and striving after the wind."
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Old 10-12-2011, 10:46 PM
Sulla the Dictator Sulla the Dictator is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

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I understand your concern, but it's important to highlight that those countries have much more regulation of the mail "utilities" than is usually the case here. They do this to ensure that mail remains affordable and that rural and low population areas continue to have access to the service and that workers are fairly compensated. (and if you think regulations to these effects aren't important, try getting satellite tv or reliable cell phone service in some rural parts of the country).

But once privatized, the next big push for the conservatives will be to remove the "onerous" regulations from the private company; my next prediction will be that conservatives will return to their usual stance of "who cares what BRITAIN does? this is America!!" I see your cries of "libertarianism!" in other words, and raise you a "socialism!"
Except that the safeguards of republicanism still apply. The Republican Party, being heavily rural, and in the Senate, depending on "low population areas" as a base of representation, aren't going to allow a private utility to ignore their constituents out of some religious desire to de-regulation.

There is nothing sacred about regulations, you know. They are simply one bureaucrat, or one politician's, notion of a good idea. Sometimes they are seriously analyzed for decades before implementation, but just as often they are not. Most of them have nothing to do with the air you breathe, or the water you drink. There is nothing weird about a political impulse to eliminate some of these things.
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Old 10-13-2011, 06:13 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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There is nothing sacred about regulations, you know. They are simply one bureaucrat, or one politician's, notion of a good idea. Sometimes they are seriously analyzed for decades before implementation, but just as often they are not. Most of them have nothing to do with the air you breathe, or the water you drink. There is nothing weird about a political impulse to eliminate some of these things.
Meh. There's nothing sacred about their removal, either.
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Old 10-12-2011, 12:37 PM
Starwatcher162536 Starwatcher162536 is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

I suspect there are two arguments at play here;

i. Why should the state be in this business?

ii. Why should some in cheaper to operate areas subsidize those in more expensive areas?

(ii) doesn't really have an answer. It's just a good people tend to want and think in this area it's fine for some people to pay more for others to pay less. If people collectively don't want this good to be provided by the state I'm fine with that to. I just dislike what seems to be to be intentionally lowering a state functions efficacy and then using that low efficacy as raison d'etre to abolishing said state function.

I already answered (i). This is admittedly a weak reason. On the other hand under usual circumstances it costs the state little to provide this good. I suspect much of the consternation about (i) is really about (ii). The cynic in me goes further and expects much of the public rallying with a negative with respect to (i) is really about framing (ii) in a different manner as those people know if (ii) is brought up directly it will be far less popular with the public then if (i) is brought up.

I'm somewhat perplexed about how normal arguments about shrinking the size of the state apply here. These usually pertain to tax rates or cutting back on regulations that make doing business more expensive. None of these arguments seem germane here. I don't believe FedEx has to pay any taxes to fund the USPS nor do I see why the USPS would raise FedEx's operating costs.

For whatever it's worth; I'm fine ceding whatever advantages the state gives the USPS. If then private entities out compete the USPS and it withers that is fine too.
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Old 10-12-2011, 08:41 PM
rfrobison rfrobison is offline
 
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Default Re: Darwinism and Libertarianism (Matt Welch & Robert Frank)

Good points.

Again, as a practical matter, I have no particular brief for privatizing USPS. If, in fact, they cover their costs wholly or nearly so based on user fees, then fine. The government does a lot of things reasonably well and I am familiar with the concept of natural monopolies. In such cases, public provision makes sense. I strongly suspect, however, that parcel and letter delivery does not meet that test, otherwise the private carriers would have no way to make money.

I don't know anything at all about the definition of "first class mail," other than it's a thing which the private sector is barred from delivering. I have a visceral dislike of monopolies (blame my econ professors) and IF this one could be scrapped while maintaining service levels comparable to those that exist now, why not do it?

As to your second point, and at the risk of again being accused of libertarian ogrehood (not by you), I see no inherent reason why someone living in the wilds of Alaska shouldn't have to pay a bit more for his or her mail delivery or pickup than another someone in Manhattan, say. Nor do I think it makes sense to charge the same amount to deliver a package 10 blocks as 1,000 miles.

To conclude (and reiterate): The government has plenty on its plate right now. Anything that can be done to reduce the strain it is under ought to be on the table, as you suggest.

And no, I'm not against any and all tax increases, for anyone in the peanut gallery about to slam me with the "mindless spending cut" charge.
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Old 10-13-2011, 06:11 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Again, as a practical matter, I have no particular brief for privatizing USPS. If, in fact, they cover their costs wholly or nearly so based on user fees, then fine. The government does a lot of things reasonably well and I am familiar with the concept of natural monopolies. In such cases, public provision makes sense. I strongly suspect, however, that parcel and letter delivery does not meet that test, otherwise the private carriers would have no way to make money.
I am actually interested in the reasons why packages work and letters don't (generally) for private couriers. Although I will say when I order something on Amazon, it's about 50-50 whether they deliver it with USPS or UPS.
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