Filed under: Capitalism | Tags: Canada Post, Capitalism, Privatization, Royal Mail, Satire, The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
Alison at The Galloping Beaver points out some alarming signs that Canada might be moving to privatize our postal system. “Why would the federal government,” Alison asks,
appoint a panel of three people, the chair of which has already written two books advocating the end of postal monopolies, to determine whether Canada Post should be allowed to continue to provide us with universal service and some of the lowest postal rates in the world, or whether it would somehow be better to deregulate it so that private corps can have a piece of it?
It’s a question to which we all know the answer, unfortunately. April Reign was pondering it a year ago. Of course, Canada Post already has a test case for privatization. Tony Blair ‘liberalized’ Britain’s Royal Mail in 2006, to the massive benefit of large companies who poached profitable routes from the government while leaving those less lucrative to languish. Sure, it sounds good on paper, but how did it work out?
The government’s strategy of opening up the postal market to private sector competition has provided “no significant benefits” for consumers and smaller businesses, while representing a “substantial threat” to the future of the Royal Mail, an independent report commissioned by ministers warned yesterday.
Oh dear. Then again, perhaps we’re thinking too small here. Perhaps instead of simply selling off existing postal routes, we should be encouraging innovation and ambition. Shouldn’t anyone with a Westphalia caravan, a few burlap sacks and a sense of adventure be able to start their own postal route, charging a reasonable fee, without the vigourous suppression of entrepreneurship by so many government officials? Criss-cross Canada with small-business pluck and pan-national determination. Surely we can get far more farcical than suggesting a profitable government service that supplies high-paying union jobs with good benefits and boasts a 96 to 97% punctual delivery record should be sold off to the more ‘efficient’ private sector? Perhaps, to combat the current tyrannical stance of our governments to such economical initiative, we should follow Thomas Pynchon’s forty-year old suggestion of covert civil disobedience:
“You weren’t supposed to see that,” he told them. He had an envelope. Oedipa could see, instead of a postage stamp, the handstruck initials PPS.
“Of course,” said Metzger. “Delivering the mail is a government monopoly. You would be opposed to that.”
Fallopian gave them a wry smile. “It’s not as rebellious as it looks. We use Yoyodyne’s inter-office delivery. On the sly. But it’s hard to find carriers, we have a big turnover. They’re run on a tight schedule, and they get nervous. Security people over at the plant know something’s up. They keep a sharp eye out. De Witt,” pointing at the fat mailman, who was being hauled, twitching, down off the bar and offered drinks he did not want, “he’s the most nervous one we’ve had all year.”
“How extensive is this?” asked Metzger.
“Only inside our San Narciso chapter. They’ve set up pilot projects similar to this in the Washington and I think Dallas chapters. But we’re the only one in California so far. A few of your more affluent type members do wrap their letters around bricks, and then the whole thing in brown paper, and send them Railway Express, but I don’t know . . .”
“A little like copping out,” Metzger sympathized.
“It’s the principle,” Fallopian agreed, sounding defensive. “To keep it up to some kind of a reasonable volume, each member has to send at least one letter a week through the Yoyodyne system. If you don’t, you get fined.” He opened his letter and showed Oedipa and Metzger.
Dear Mike, it said, how are you? Just thought I’d drop you a note. How’s your book coming? Guess that’s all for now. See you at The Scope.
“That’s how it is,” Fallopian confessed bitterly, “most of the time.”
—Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1969)
I suppose under capitalism, even satire needs some competition.
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