Hands Off Amazon.com and Sell Off the Post Office

by | Apr 5, 2018 | Business, Trade

President Trump should focus on getting government out of business by deregulating—and privatizing the United States Postal Service.

Typically, I don’t write about current politics—there are enough commentators doing so already—but I am making an exception on president Trump’s attack on Amazon. As reported by BBC News, he has claimed that the United States Postal Service is losing money on Amazon deliveries and that Amazon uses Washington Post, owned by CEO Jeff Bezos, as “lobbyist.”

Mr. Trump has also threatened to “go after” Amazon with regulation because, in his view, it is too big and has caused many retail jobs to disappear (not to speak of hurting shopping malls and commercial real estate development, which is the core of Mr. Trump’s own business).

His position as president—despite him having proven to be a casual liar—make Mr. Trump’s utterances alone, even if he does not act on his threats, damaging. (After Trump’s tweets attacking Amazon, the company’s share value declined 4.4%—53 billion dollars—but has recovered since). According to the BBC’s Business Correspondent, Joe Lynam, it is unprecedented for a sitting president to single out one company for such vicious attacks Mr. Trump has been making.

Even if Mr. Trump’s claims about the USPS’s losses—“billions of dollars”—in its contract with Amazon were true (U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission says that the Amazon contract is profitable for the USPS), how Amazon operates is none of the president’s, or the government’s, business.

As Ayn Rand explains, government has only one proper role: to protect its citizens against the initiation of physical force, including fraud. Government should not be regulating business or operating postal services, both of which constitute initiation of physical force.

When government dictates how Amazon should operate, it prevents the company from maximizing profits. In other words, government regulation diminishes wealth creation, which harms not only Amazon’s shareholders but also its employees (fewer jobs, lower wages) and customers (higher prices, less selection, less innovation, and thus, less convenience and overall value).

Government operating a business, such as a postal service, also constitutes physical force. The USPS is funded by money collected from tax payers under the threat of physical force—taxes are not voluntary, and it holds a monopoly on the delivery of first class mail. The USPS is a government-run business; it is no wonder it is losing money and can continue to do so with continual tax payer subsidies, with little accountability and competitive pressure.

Amazon, on the other hand, does not initiate physical force against anybody. Instead, it trades voluntarily for mutual benefit. Its shareholders invest in it voluntarily, its managers and other employees work for it voluntarily, and its customers buy from it voluntarily. Why are all these parties so eager to trade with Amazon? Because Amazon provides them a tremendous value: return on their investment (continually increasing share price—except when president Trump threatens initiation of physical force), work for agreeable compensation, ever-increasing selection of goods at great prices and convenience.

The inability of malls and other retailers to compete with Amazon is not due to it initiating physical force but because it offers greater value than its competitors—which shareholders, employees, and customers choose over competitors’ offerings. Further investment, employees competing for its jobs, and more and more customers buying more and more of its products allows Amazon to create more wealth, innovate, and grow, thus benefiting us all.

That is the beauty of free markets: enhancing of human prosperity and flourishing.

Mr. Trump should keep his fingers off his Twitter feed and leave Amazon alone to do what it does best: create value. Instead, the president should focus on getting government out of business by deregulating—and privatizing the United States Postal Service.


  1. Everything said here is absolutely true, but I’ve been reading these arguments since 1966, and in all that time, these arguments have been pushed ever further into the backwaters by an ever increasingly irrational culture despite all educational efforts by people of reason, because the number and means of irrational teachers has increased much faster than that of rational teachers, because we’ve been at least 100 years behind the curve from the very start. There is nothing or anybody that can stop or slow the automaton steam roller overseen by irrational teachers. After the U.S. elections of 2018 and 2020, we’ll have something countless times worse than Trump. Mike Kevitt

  2. Joe Lynam seems to have a rather short memory. Obama went after Fox News in the same fashion while a sitting president, so it’s not exactly ‘unprecedented’.

  3. And didn’t Kennedy go after U.S. Steel, or was it the entire steel industry? Mike Kevitt

  4. I thought that was Truman.
    Although I do recall my Dad (he worked for US Steel) saying that he sat through the longest strike in steel history back in the early 60s, so maybe Kennedy did it then too.

  5. It was Kennedy, not Truman. You can probably look it up. Truman fought, way back before 1950, for socialized medicine. He settled for Johnson’s Medicare, realizing that was actually the best start.
    Kennedy drubbed U.S. Steel (or maybe the entire steel industry) over price increases. The industry gave in and rolled back prices. I don’t remember the union strike. Maybe that was over other issues more pertinent to union and, allegedly, worker issues. Maybe you know.
    Also, presidents T. Roosevelt and W. H. Taft went after Standard Oil and won “victory” in 1911. Older gents might be able to tell me about earlier skullduggery. It’s not new. It’s old. Mike Kevitt

  6. I agree that Trump’s rhetoric is over the top most of the time but is so far is much better than his predecessor. I wish he would put the Post Office up for sale, it’s main accomplishment is inefficiency. As to stock price of Amazon it was over bought and more of an excuse to adjust price by the market than actual problem by Trump. Bezos could stop this crap by firing a few lying editors at the Washington Post.

  7. “The USPS is funded by money collected from tax payers”

    Ms. Woiceshyn should do some actual research sometime. The only taxpayer money the USPS receives is $100 million a year allocated by Congress specifically to offset Congressionally mandated free mailing privileges for overseas voters and the blind.

    And it should be noted that the post office function is spelled out in the Constitution. It would take a constitutional amendment for it to be possible to sell off the postal service.

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Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book. Visit her website at profitableandmoral.com.


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