I’ve heard a lot of crazy ideas in my time, but yesterday I might have heard the craziest. A friend of mine tried to tell me that we need a public option for parcel delivery.
Now why in the world would we want the federal government to stick its hands into this highly profitable and completely privatized industry? Successful and well-run companies such as FedEx and UPS employ hundreds of thousands of workers. Their service is timely and impeccable and their prices are always reasonable. I had to ask my friend how the government, with its unique ability to mess up any task, could possibly improve on what the private companies are already doing.
"Do you want a government bureaucrat deciding between overnight and next-day air?" I asked him. "Are you prepared for bubble-wrap rationing?"
He then tried to explain to me that the public option wouldn’t change my ability to keep using my old companies if I wanted, but I wasn’t falling for his slick lines.
"But what you don’t realize," I cautioned him, "is that the government will distort the free market. They’ll have an unfair advantage over the private companies. You’ll probably even want to raise taxes to subsidize this so-called public option. I give FedEx and UPS three years, tops, before they go bankrupt under your plan. Then, we’ll have what all you liberals really want: socialized parcel."
My friend started blathering on about other industries, such as education and transportation, where public and private options do quite well in the same marketplace, but he wasn’t making much sense. Then, he said the most ridiculous thing of all. He actually claimed that this public option could offer a service that the private companies don’t, a service that would give great benefit to Americans of all socio-economic levels. But you wouldn’t believe it if I told you.
In addition to package deliveries, he said that every day except Sunday, the federal government could send a car to every residence and business in the country (that’s right, every single residence and business!). And that car could pick up letters for less than fifty cents each (that’s right, less than fifty cents!) and deliver it to any other residence or business anywhere in the country in less than three days (that’s right, less than three days!). And when they came to pick up your letters, they could even drop off ones that other people have sent to you – all in the same trip.
At that point in the conversation, I had no choice but to turn and walk away. I can’t talk about important topics such as parcel delivery if people are just going to be silly.