An accomplished man, Paul Krugman has won a nobel prize, become a superstar economist with his column in the New York Times, blamed Bush for all of the world’s ills, and reminded me just a little bit of Saddam Hussein. He has been a very respectable voice to the economic arguments against libertarian assumptions and approaches to the economy. But sometimes, in an effort to boost his progressive views, he embraces government works a little too much.


In a blog post a few days ago, Krugman defends the DMV and post office as government operations that can work well. He says that the bad wrap the post office gets for being a bureaucratic nightmare is unfair when, in his experience, it has been pleasant and cheap. I’ll give the cheap thing to him. Our first class stamps are cheaper than pretty much anywhere else in the world. On the other hand, does anyone seriously think the DMV is an efficiently run enterprise, with the small number of locations, long lines, and grumpy service?

And how are we to know how good things could be if there wasn’t a legally enforced monopoly on snail mail? I bet everyone marveled when the post office could deliver packages in x amount of time for y dollars. But then, when UPS and FedEx bust out on the scene and gave the Post Office competition, it went even faster and did it even cheaper. If the Post Office is so great, let it stand the competition of other firms. There’s no way to tell for sure what the post office would be like if it was opened up to some competition, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t hurt.

Update: Tyler Cowen talks more about the post office, especially in regards to “innovation that might have been.” And here.