mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
USPS: Starve the Beast

If Mahatma Gandhi has access to wi-fi in the afterlife, and is able to keep up with the liberal blogosphere, he must be rolling in his grave this week.

Yesterday, members of the postal workers union ended their four-day hunger strike at a rally in front of the steps of the Capitol. Since it began, the usual lefties have portrayed the strikers as heroic underdogs fighting against an unjust Congressional push to restructure the Postal Service. Some have gone so far as to compare their strike to those of the famed Indian revolutionary.

There is, however, a difference between the effort of more than 400 million oppressed people to end foreign rule and set up the world’s largest democracy on the one hand, and the effort of a group of workers to hang on to jobs being made obsolete by technology on the other.

Via Meadia has been following the train wreck that is the US Postal Service for some time now. It needs sweeping reform, and while the present Congressional budget proposals are flawed — too little real change and too much dysfunctional Congressional micromanagement — they are a lot better than British Imperialism.

At Via Meadia, we don’t hate the postal workers or wish them ill. If it was up to us, everybody in the world would have job tenure and good wages — and magic elves would distribute everything we needed so that we would all be rich to boot. And we’ve got family in the USPS — we know something about the struggles those workers face.

But Gandhi was pushing for progress; the postal workers, regrettably, are pushing against it. Their right to protest is sacred, but society also has rights here, and that means the Postal Service must change.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Walter Sobchak

    I would be happy to have delivery every other day. USPS delivers mail to our house 6 days a week (federal holidays excepted). I have observed that 2 or 3 days a week are relatively heavy deliveries, and the other days are fairly light. They could save a lot of money by only delivering to us 3 days a week. They could deliver to the houses on the west side of the street on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and to the houses on the east side of the street on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. They could switch sides in the weeks where Monday is a Federal Holiday.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    The monopoly needs to be broken up like the AT&T Phone monopoly was. Look what happened to the Phone industry, a similar revolution could occur in the mail delivery industry.

  • Jim.

    Are you sure British Imperialism was all that bad? It seems to have gotten better result forging the disparate cultures of an entire subcontinent into a single political entity than the Brussels can manage.

  • Brett

    The USPS has tried to change – but every time they tried to start up a new venture that might replace the increasingly obsolete and unprofitable physical mail service, they kept getting blocked by act of Congress. The New York Times has a great article about that process, and how it has hobbled the USPS’s efforts to change.

    So, privatize the whole thing, right? I’d love to see it, except that rural folk who depend on the rest of us subsidizing their artificially cheap mail has representatives in Congress, too. That leaves the USPS in a deep bind – they can’t change, but they also can’t be privatized.

  • WigWag

    Professor Mead is certainly right that the Mahatma was an artist in anorexia. But here’s the thing; Gandhi would have sided with the postal workers not with Professor Mead and those who oppose the postal unions.

    What do you suppose Gandhi would have thought of this post and your others on the USPS, Professor Mead?

  • Jim.


    Gandhi may well have decided that bloated, costly, inefficient bureaucracy was the Indian way, and better than any reforms the British wanted to introduce.

    Is that a good thing?

  • WigWag

    Jim, Gandhi was a pragmatist; despite his pacifism and his opposition to British imperialism he enthusiastically sided with the British during the Great War and he helped recruit Indians who fought bravely side by side with the British. As it happens, the Indians were excellent soldiers. They experienced horrendous losses at Gallipoli.

    I doubt Gandhi would have wasted much time defending inefficiency. Although he was no socialist, he ardently believed in trade unions; in fact he was one of the founders of Indian National Trade Union Congress. He sided with the poor against the rich; he preferred spending time with the powerless rather than the powerful. He was acutely concerned with the plight of India’s untouchables and would undoubtedly have allied himself with America’s new underclass created in part by the policies of corporatist Democrats and virtually all Republicans. Gandhi was smart; he would have realized that unregulated capitalism was a recipe for benefiting a tiny number of people at the expense of impoverishing millions.

    Of course it is impossible to know what Gandhi would have thought of contemporary American society; we can only guess. But we do know that Gandhi supported strikes and mass action.

    It’s fine to think that Gandhi’s example has no relevance to anything happening in the United States today. But Professor Mead should be a little less glib when he uses Gandhi in his posts. Gandhi would have sided with the postal workers not wealthy taxpayers who don’t want to pay more in taxes to subsidize the postal service. He would have found Professor Mead’s attitude about labor unions revolting. He would have rejected the libertarian model of capitalism as immoral. I suspect he would have found Professor Mead’s ranting about the “blue model” delusional.

    What the artist in anorexia would have done to protect laid off postal workers is start a hunger strike with the goal of shaming society into providing the resources to protect them.

    Of course for Gandhi’s strategy to work his adversaries have to possess a modicum of shame. Whether American elites still do (especially the Republican ones) is an open question.

  • vanderleun

    When it come to dealing with the USPS as it presently exists it is well to take one’s instructions from fireworks and explosives: “Light fuse and get away.”

  • Anthony

    WigWag @7, very well said regarding the Indian practitioner of Satyagraha.

  • Snorri Godhi

    “… and magic elves would distribute everything we needed so that we would all be rich to boot”

    … and while they are at it, the elves could distribute the mail as well.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service