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Why the Post Office Makes America Great: Zeynep Tufekci Is Right On

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I have been wanting to write this blog post for years. And now, Zeynep Tufekci did a better job.

We all win!

In her New York Times piece, Why the Post Office Makes America Great, Zeynep Tufekci reminds me of a story from my childhood. My father would often say "In France, the phones often don't work." Now he was telling me this in the 1970's, and was referring to his trips to France in the 1950's and 60's, not many years after WWII.* But he was making a point: In the U.S., the infrastructure of business works reliably. This is deeply important, and should not be taken for granted.

My dad would also say "Put a post card in the mail with just a full name, city and state, and watch it get there most of the time." I am not sure this works today, but it may well (to small cities). I did see it work when I was growing up.

None of this should be taken for granted. Institutions like the Postal Service are part of our national infrastructure. Infrastructure needs care, feeding, attention and appreciation.

When I hear debates about the postal service ("it is too slow," "it's losing money," "privatize it" etc.), I think how most business to business contracts have provisions for the parties to notify each other of problems related to the contract. Most of the time, that notification can be done by U.S. mail. There is an assumption under a large swath of business that the mail exists, and that we all agree (and assume) it is reliable.

The Postal Service is part of the American landscape, and it is an important component of why things work in this country. Countries aren't great because they exist. A country becomes great when its institutions, even the boring ones, are great. Today's Postal Service has roots going directly to the time when Benjamin Franklin was Postmaster. We all benefit from a reliable Postal Service.

Thank you, Zeynep, for the reminder.

The Postal Service is regulated by Congress. If you have a minute, tell your representative that the Postal Service matters, and deserves care, feeding, attention and appreciation. Tell him or her that Zeynep reminded you.

* France's phones have been perfectly good for decades already, this observation of my father's is long out of date. And cell service in France is apparently more competitive than what we have in the U.S.
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