In Form a Reply, in Reality a Surrender.

In Form a Reply, in Reality a Surrender.

Appreciating the necessity of at least seeming to meet the indisputable fact which I opposed to its championship of government postal monopoly, the Winsted Press presents the following ghost of an answer, which may be as convincing to the victims of political superstition as most materializations are to the victims of religious superstition, but which, like those materializations, is so imperceptible to the touch of the hard-headed investigator that, when he puts his hand upon it, he does not find it there.(34 ¶ 1)

The single instance of Wells, Fargo & Co., cited by B. R. Tucker to prove the advantage of private enterprise as a mail carrier, needs fuller explanation of correlated circumstances to show its true significance. As stated by Mr. Tucker, this company half a dozen years ago did a large business carrying letters through the Pacific States and Territories to distant and sparsely populated places for five cents per letter, paying more than three to the government in compliance with postal law and getting less than two for the trouble, and, though it cost the senders more, the service was enough better than government’s to secure the greater part of the business.(34 ¶ 2)

This restatement of my statement is fair enough, except that it but dimly conveys the idea that Wells, Fargo & Co. were carrying, not only to distant and sparsely populated places, but to places thickly settled and easy of access, and were beating the government there also,—a fact of no little importance.(34 ¶ 3)

Several facts may explain this: 1. Undeveloped government service in a new country, distant from the seat of government.(34 ¶ 4)

Here the ghost appears, all form and no substance. John Jones is a better messenger than John Smith, declares the Winsted Press because Jones can run over stony ground while Smith cannot. Indeed! I answer; why, then, did Smith outrun Jones the other day in going from San Francisco to Wayback? Oh! that may be explained, the Press rejoins, by the fact that the ground was stony. The Press had complained against the Anarchistic theory of free competition in postal service that private enterprise would not reach remote points, while government does reach them. I proved by facts that private enterprise was more successful than government in reaching rmeote points. What sense, then, is there in answering that these points are distant from the government’s headquarters and that it had not developed its service? The whole point lies in the fact that private enterprise was the first to develop its service and the most successful in maintaining it at a high degree of efficiency.(34 ¶ 5)

2. Government competition which kept Wells & Fargo from charging monopoly prices.(34 ¶ 6)

If the object of a government postal service is to keep private enterprise from charging high prices, no more striking illustration of the stupid way in which government works to achieve its objects could be cited than its imposition of a tax of two (then three) cents a letter upon private postal companies. It is obvious that this tax was all that kept Wells, Fargo & Co. from reducing their letter-rate to three or even two cents, in which case the government probably would have lost the remnant of business which it still commanded. This is guarding against monopoly prices with a vengeance! The competitor, whether government or individual, who must tax his rival in order to live is no competitor at all, but a monopolist himself. It is not government competition that Anarchists are fighting, but government monopoly. It should be added, however, that, pending the transformation of governments into voluntary associations, even government competition is unfair, because an association supported by compulsory taxation could always, if it chose, carry the mails at less than cost and tax the deficit out of the people.(34 ¶ 7)

3. Other paying business which brought the company into contact with remote districts and warranted greater safeguards to conveyance than government then offered to its mail carriers.(34 ¶ 8)

Exactly. What does it prove? Why, that postal service and express service can be most advantageously run in conjunction, and that private enterprise was the first to find it out. This is one of the arguments which the Anarchists use.(34 ¶ 9)

4. A difference of two cents was not appreciated in a country where pennies were unknown.(34 ¶ 10)

Here the phantom attains the last degree of attenuation. If Mr. Pinney will call at the Winsted post-office, his postmaster will tell him—what common sense ought to have taught him—that of all the stamps used not over five per cent. are purchased singly, the rest being taken two, three, five, ten, a hundred, a thousand at a time. Californians are said to be very reckless in the matter of petty expenditures, but I doubt if any large portion of them would carry their prodigality so far as to pay five dollars a hundred for stamps when they could get them at three dollars a hundred on the next corner.(34 ¶ 11)

These conditions do not exist elsewhere in this country at present. Therefore the illustration proves nothing.(34 ¶ 12)

Proves nothing! Does it not prove that private enterprise outstripped the government under the conditions that then and there existed, which were difficult enough for both, but extraordinarily embarrassing for the former?(34 ¶ 13)

We know that private enterprise does not afford express facilities to sparsely settled districts throughout the country.(34 ¶ 14)

I know nothing of the kind. The express companies cover practically the whole country. They charge high rates to points difficult of access; but this is only just. The government postal rates, on the contrary, are unjust. It certainly is not fair that my neighbor, who sends a hundred letters to New York every year, should have to pay two cents each on them, though the cost of carriage is but one cent, simply because the government spends a dollar in carrying for me one letter a year to Wayback, for which I also pay two cents. It may be said, however, that where each individual charge is so small, a schedule of rates would cause more trouble and expense than saving; in other words, that to keep books would be poor economy. Very likely; and in that case no one would find it out sooner than the private mail companies. This, however, is not the case in the express business, where parcels of all sizes and weights are carried.(34 ¶ 15)

No more would it mail facilities. A remarkable exception only proves the rule. But, if private enterprise can and will do so much, why doesn’t it do it now? The law stands no more in the way of Adams Express than it did in the way of the Wells & Fargo express.(34 ¶ 16)

This reminds me of the question with which Mr. Pinney closed his discussion with me regarding free money. He desired to know why the Anarchists did not start a free money system, saying that they ought to be shrewd enough to devise some way of evading the law. As if any competing business could be expected to succeed if it had to spend a fortune in contesting lawsuits or in paying a heavy tax to which its rival was not subject! So handicapped, it could not possibly succeed unless its work was of such a nature as to admit the widest range of variation in point of excellence. This was the case in the competition between Wells, Fargo & Co. and the government. The territory covered was so ill-adapted to postal facilities that it afforded a wide margin for the display of superiority, and Wells, Fargo & Co. took advantage of this to such an extent that they beat the government in spite of their handicap. But in the territory covered by Adams Express it is essentially different. There the postal service is so simple a matter that the possible margin of superiority would not warrant an extra charge of even one cent a letter. But I am told that Adams Express would be only too glad of the chance to carry letters at one cent each, if there were no tax to be paid on the business. If the governmentalists think that the United States can beat Adams Express, why do they not dare to place the two on equal terms? That is a fair question. But when a man’s hands are tied, to ask him why he doesn’t fight is a coward’s question.(34 ¶ 17)