Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.6, RH.6-8.8, WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.4, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.6, RI.6-8.8, RI.6-8.10, W.6-8.1,W.6-8.4, SL.6-8.1

NCSS: Time, Continuity, and Change • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions • Power, Authority, and Governance • Production, Distribution, and Consumption • Civic Ideals and Practices

Illustration by Alex Fine


Expert vs. Expert

Should the Government Run the Post Office?

Have you checked the mail today? There might just be a package for you. After all, the holiday season is the busiest time of year for mail delivery.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) was once even busier. Before phones and email, Americans relied on the post office to communicate with people far away.

The 13 Colonies set up the post office in 1775 to ensure reliable mail delivery. Today the USPS is part of the federal government. The post office pays for its operations by selling postage and through services such as post office box rentals. 

However, earning enough to pay its workers is a challenge. Private companies such as UPS compete for business. Plus, Americans are sending fewer letters. In 2022, the post office delivered about 79 billion fewer pieces of mail than in 2004. 

This year, the USPS is projected to lose $4.5 billion. But being a federal institution limits the changes it can make to earn more money. For example, the post office is required to deliver mail nationwide six days a week. 

The USPS’s financial troubles have prompted some people to call for it to become a private company. But others say it should remain part of the government to guarantee mail delivery for all Americans.

Should the government run the post office? Two experts weigh in.


The post office is a valuable public service.

Even in a world with email, social media, and texting, the U.S. Postal Service is still the heart of many communities. People and businesses rely on it to deliver online purchases, medicines, bills, letters, and more. The post office also plays an important role in our democracy, as secure voting by mail has become part of the election process. 

Why must the post office remain part of the government? Because it does something no private delivery company would ever do: It serves nearly 165 million addresses across the country—all with reasonable and uniform prices. This includes unprofitable routes in rural areas and low-income neighborhoods where private companies might charge more.


Pieces of mail the post office processes every minute


And while the volume of letters has declined in recent years, the USPS still sorts, transports, and delivers more than 421 million pieces of mail a day. Plus, online shopping has created a boom in package deliveries. The USPS handles the largest percentage of those deliveries, keeping them accessible for all. 

The nation’s founders had it right: The U.S. Constitution empowered Congress “to establish post offices and post roads” that connect the nation together. For more than two centuries, the postal system has fulfilled that role. Let’s keep it vibrant for many years to come. 

—Mark Dimondstein
President, American Postal Workers Union


Illustration by Alex Fine

Mail should be delivered by private companies.

With modern technology and many companies performing similar services, the government doesn’t need to be in the mail delivery business. 

The post office is one of the few federal agencies called for in the Constitution. Why? At the time of the American Revolution (1775-1783), most political discussion happened through newspapers, which had to be delivered to readers. The nation’s founders authorized a post office in part because a democratic nation requires informed citizens. 

In 1787, James Madison brought up another key role for the post office: securing communication between the states. That made sense in a young nation that was uniting 13 independent colonies—especially since radio, TV, and the internet had not been invented.

66 cents

Price of a first-class postage stamp, which went up from 63 cents in July


But now, nearly 250 years later, we no longer rely on the post office to deliver news or communicate with people in other states. Bills are paid online. Most of my mail is unwanted advertising. In fact, the average U.S. household receives 848 pieces of junk mail a year.

Meanwhile, USPS costs have grown. Since 1970, it has generally operated at a deficit—meaning it costs more money to run than it makes. The situation is predicted to get even worse. The government should sell the post office and allow it to move forward as a private business. 

—Parker Sheppard 
Director, Center for Data Analysis, The Heritage Foundation


Weigh the Arguments

Which expert makes a stronger case? First, underline two reasons each author gives to support his argument. Then use that information to decide who makes a better argument about how the post office should be run.

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