Tuesday, May 1, 2012

More on rural post offices: progress vs. community?

An editorial in yesterday's Denver Post urges the U.S. House of Representatives to reject the Senate plan for dealing with the U.S. Postal Service's economic crisis.  As discussed here, that Senate plan would delay post office closures for a year.  Editors at the Post write:    
It's a sad day when politicians won't allow a bureaucracy to downsize as it sees fit in order to be more efficient.
The editorial continues:
The agency should be allowed to hew more closely to its plan, and we're disappointed that Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennett, both Democrats, supported the Senate plan, particularly the piece that delays rural post office closures.   
Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, also has taken issue with closing rural post offices.  To his credit, Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, is on board with closures, as well as other reforms.   
Certainly, closing under-utilized post offices is a serious issue for areas where such entities are seen as the 'heart' of the community.  But the closures also are an important piece of what should be a broad strategy to make the USPS more lean and efficient. 
Ultimately, its future will depend upon whether it can calibrate and adapt to changing ways of delivering information.  Congress wouldn't be doing the Postal Service any favors by delaying that transformation.  
The way in which the editorial pits progress and technology against sentimentality or nostalgia reminds me of the contrary position taken by Wendell Berry in his recent Jefferson lecture.  (Read more here and here).  Specifically, I recalled this part of the lecture, in which Berry writes, tongue in cheek, of "mobility," the role of technologies, and the downsides of both:
[T]he most conscientiously up-to-date people can easily do without local workshops and stores, local journalism, a local newspaper, a local post office, all of which supposedly have been replaced by technologies.  But what technology can replace personal privacy or the coherence of a family or a community?  What technology can undo the collateral damages of an inhuman rate of technological change? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First show sincerity in the attempt to save money. End six day delivery, end door-to-door delivery and curb side delivery. Then put postal service installed cluster boxes in cities rural communities alike. Rather than saving 200 million a year, the USPS would be saving tens of billions each year. Maybe most importantly, the burden is shared by the entire U.S. population.