Writing in The State and Revolution in 1917, Vladimir Lenin summed up the economic aim of socialism as follows: "To organize the whole economy on the lines of the postal service…."
Incredible, isn't it? After centuries of treatises and miles of paper and tubs of ink, this is the great historical turning point: government employees carrying sacks of paper mail from house to house — and operating at an economic loss.
It's fascinating how it all comes down to the post office, again and again, in the history of public policy. And so it is in our time, with Obama's admission/gaffe/slip concerning the post office and its analogy to what he wants to do with healthcare.
Here is a transcript of his spontaneous talk at a high school. A student raised a question about the government's provision of health services and its impact on private services.
How can a private company compete against the government? My answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining, meaning that taxpayers aren't subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services, and a good network of doctors, just like private insurers do, then I think private insurers should be able to compete.
They do it all the time. If you think about it, UPS and Fed-Ex are doing just fine. It's the post office that's always having problems … there is nothing inevitable about this somehow destroying the private marketplace. As long as it is not set up where the government is being subsidized by the taxpayers so that even if they are providing a good deal, we keep having to pony up more and more money.
Now, these comments are nothing short of incredible. The post office has been on the loser list for many decades.
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