As I See It: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” These words described the postal system that unified the extensive empire of ancient Persia. Over 2,500 years ago. Every efficient government in history has tried to emulate it. Some better than others. “Safe as the Royal Mail” was an advertising slogan. The world’s largest diamond was sent from South Africa in a plain brown box by Royal Mail. For 245 years, the U.S. mail has enjoyed a similar reputation. Communication ties a civilization together. In many countries, the post office is about the only government function that is trusted.

OK, there are commercial carriers that can do some things a little better than the Postal Service does, and some things they can’t do at all. The Post Office will deliver a letter from anyone to anyone even service members overseas, for the outrageous cost of 55 cents. Less if you bought your forever stamps years ago. FedEx or UPS will do the same thing for only $20 or $30 but not to or from certain addresses. USPS also delivers packages inexpensively from any of 169 million U.S. addresses to any other U.S. address including APO and FPO. The Postal Service employs nearly a half a million people directly, plus contractors. They deliver over 140,000,000,000 pieces a year, including magazines, catalogs, newspapers, prescriptions, tax refunds, birthday cards and some things you might never think of: Seeds, live poultry, and live queen bees from Hawaii to desperate apiaries worldwide. Physical love letters in the mail are much more endearing than email. Come to think of it, physical letters about anything are more impactful than electronic messages.


The Post Office is one of the very few departments of the government specified by the Constitution. Unlike internet messaging, the Post Office does not read, analyze or even look at your mail. It does not keep track of who is writing to whom, buying, or looking at what. Educational printed matter, books, magazines and catalogs receive special treatment. Printed magazines are much more powerful advertising than the annoying pop-ups on the internet and employ hundreds of thousands of people. Mail order catalog companies expect three orders for every 100 catalogs they mail. That’s why they still do it. They employ additional hundreds of thousands. Our Congress enjoy a franking privilege that lets them send mail to us free. In some rural areas, it might be 100 miles to the bank or pharmacy, but 10 feet to your mailbox. USPS even sells money orders and can cash some checks. The mail carrier comes to your home, six days a week. Many postal services are available not only at the Post Office, but directly from your carrier.

Did you ever have someone make you an offer and insist that the reply go by something other than U.S. mail. That is because it’s shady and mail fraud is a federal crime with severe penalties.

I could not have built my successful Allett business without inexpensive U.S. mail to send product to all 50 states and 34 countries. If we had to use a commercial carrier, the shipping cost would have doubled our price.

For a few dollars a month you can rent a P.O. Box. You can use that address without publishing your home address. The P.O. Box is secure, and discrete. It is only accessible to you, and the postal staff.


USPS is under attack. This is basically to end mail-in voting because those who cannot win an election honestly want to limit who can vote. The claim that USPS should be run like a business is made by the very politicians that force it to do things they do not impose on businesses. The Census, like voting, is crucial to representative democracy. It would be outrageously expensive or highly suspect without mail. Anything that can be transmitted electronically can be hacked electronically. That’s why the ultimate security is paper, a hard copy. Paper records can be audited until there is no doubt as to their accuracy. Support the USPS, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

Ken Obenski is a forensic engineer, now safety and freedom advocate in South Kona. He writes a biweekly column for West Hawaii Today. Send feedback to