None Should Be Favored

What’s the theory behind the recent postal rate changes? The Chairman of the Postal Board of Governors spelled it out 27 years ago:
“…none should be favored and none benefited. Each party pays the cost of service it consumes, not less, and does not bear the cost of others’ consumption.”

James C. Miller III and Roger Sherman, “Has the 1970 Act Been Fair to Mailers?” in Roger Sherman, ed., Perspectives on Postal Service Issues 63 (1980).

And the Postal Regulatory Commission is following that theory.
“it seems to be fundamentally fair that mailers pay the costs they impose upon the Postal Service plus the same contribution per piece that all the mailers make within the same subclass.”

—Accord, R2006-1 PRC Op. & Rec. Decis. ¶ 4032

Both of these items are quoted in a letter to the PRC, which also says:
“The Governors should establish rate designs that maximize the overall benefit of the mails for consumers as a whole, not just for a handful of interest groups.”

Re: Docket No. R2006-1, Postal Rate and Fee Changes, 2006, National Association of Presort Mailers to Postal Regulatory Commission, 16 April 2007

That sounds almost like the common good, but it’s not quite. Notice the wording: “consumers”. The common good isn’t just about consumers of goods from producers. When it’s about a communication network, it’s also about free flow of information, as in a free press. And a free press doesn’t mean a press consisting solely of large players that can afford especially efficient mailing practices.

Remember, one of the main backers of the new postal rates is Time Warner, which is also one of the main Internet ISPs. Such per piece charging schemes are anathema to the way the Internet operates. If we had had such charging on the Internet, we never would have had electronic mail and mailing lists, the World Wide Web, Yahoo!, google, YouTube, myspace, or blogs. Indeed, on the Internet none should be favored, but that means everyone should pay their own connect cost, not that everyone should pay per-message charges.