The Royal Mail is a complete waste of space, time and money. It operates a poor service at an extortionate price, protected from competition by competent people like DHL and FedEx by a legal monopoly.
Why do we tolerate this situation? Apparently, because of our fetish for post offices. Which is weird, because post offices are entirely unnecessary. Benefits can be paid by electronic transfer and stamps purchased from newsagents – the only reason for anyone sane to go to a post office now is because they need to send a parcel that’s not quite big or valuable enough to send by courier.
Now, if you’re an economic illiterate and a socialist (not necessarily the same thing), you’ll probably start bleating about the rural poor. Fair enough, it sucks to be poor, especially if you live in the theme park for rich retirees and richer commuters that is the English countryside. But poor ruralites need transport too – and we don’t deal with that need by running a taxi monopoly that charges the same price for all taxi journeys irrespective of length.
In other words, if we’re worried about the rural poor, we shouldn’t let that concern stop us from breaking the postal monopoly – rather, we should have a free market in mail and, separately, give subsidies to rural households that need them. This has the added advantage of not providing a pointless subsidy to wealthy ruralites.
It’s the same issue as with means-tested benefits versus basic state pensions: why the hell should someone with a Â£15,000 a year tax-free private pension and a paid-off mortgage on a comedically expensive house that they bought for fuck all get an additional Â£3,150 from my wages just for being old? If you apply broad-brush subsidy regimes like the Post Office and like the state pension, most of the impact will be to increase inefficiency, and very little will go to help the genuinely needy.
One of the best things about the EU is that it’s seriously opposed to state aid for industry and forces governments to not provide it, even when to do so would be popular. So the fact that it has told the government to reduce the pointless subsidy is excellent news. Weirdly, libertarian Europhobes like the Devil have abandoned their normal principles of hating government waste to eulogize the Post Office and slate the EU; I hope this is just a cynical political move rather than a sign of genuine economic idiocy.
Update: the EU hasn’t actually told the government to reduce the pointless subsidy. It’s an amazing and rare case of Labour doing something good and unpopular without external prompting…