Edward Robertson points out the bureaucratic blundering and inefficiency of the Postal Monopoly during the Christmas rush period (1891)

Edward Stanley Robertson

Found in A Plea for Liberty: An Argument against Socialism and Socialistic Legislation (LF ed.)

Thomas Mackay in 1891 edited a collection of essays attacking the Fabian Socialist ideas of George Bernard Shaw. In one essay Edward Robertson complained about the inefficiencies of the government postal monopoly at Christmas time

In the first place, the Post Office has always been a monopoly. There never was a time when any private agency was permitted to compete with the State in the work of distributing letters. … I cannot refrain from noticing the breakdown of letter-delivery arrangements which has taken place at Christmas every year since the Christmas card came into fashion. … One would think that if, by the mere fact of belonging to a department of Government, a preternatural faculty of dealing with statistics were conferred upon officials, the officials of the Post Office ought, after a brief experience, to have been able to foresee and provide for this recurring difficulty. Yet no sooner does Christmas come within measurable distance, than every Post Office is placarded and every newspaper filled, with plaintive appeals from the Postmaster-General to the Christmas card dispatching public, to ‘post early, so as to ensure the punctual delivery of letters!’

As Christmas approaches the Scrooges amongst us like to point out that criticising the state monopoly postal system at this time of the year has a distinguished history. Here we have another essay by a member of the radical laissez-faire and individualist organization The Liberty and Property Defence League railing against some defect in state run enterprises. The problem emerges because entrepreneurs in the free market develop new products such as sending cards on St. Valentine’s Day or encouraging gift giving at Christmas time which puts a huge load on the government monopoly postal service. If it were a private business (or businesses) they would leap at the opportunity of new customers. Robertson mocks the post office for its inability to cope with changing market conditions.