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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Return to Sender

The Postal Service is allowing advertising on postage stamps. I wonder, will they accept ads from any legal business? Will it be okay to have ads for adult bookstores? Will individuals be able to purchase ads to promote a message? Will there be objections from some groups if the government allows advertising of particular products believed to be harmful to health, the environment, or if the good or service advertised on the stamp is objectionable to a religious group? Will stamps grow in size over time to increase revenues?

If all ads won't be allowed, where exactly is the line between acceptable and unacceptable and who decides? Who regulates the messages that appear on the mail coming into homes and businesses? If all legal ads are accepted, what happens when GM refuses mail with Toyota stamps, and hard-core Raider fans absolutely will not take an envelope with a stamp promoting the Chargers or some other team? Someone else can deliver that envelope the day after a tough loss.

I'm not sure this view is widespread, but I would prefer that government parks, buildings, vehicles, and so on be free of advertising, recognition of corporate donors (they can do this on their own property and advertising), and other commercial relationships. I can do without the Google Library System, the Frito-Lay chain of National Park Visitor Centers, Wal-Mart Community Colleges, and the Exxon National Interstate System:

Stamps to Become a Marketing Vehicle, by Caroline E. Mayer, Washington Post: Advertising might soon be pushing the envelope. The U.S. Postal Service is allowing companies to create their own branded stamps for first-class mail. Instead of flags, you can expect to see a company logo; instead of photos of famous Americans, you might see pictures of your local real estate agent.

It is a test, part of an effort to reverse the decline in first-class mailings. As USPS spokeswoman Joanne Veto said, "We want to make mail more interesting to consumers." The first company to buy in is Hewlett-Packard, which is using its corporate logo and pictures from its early days -- including founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard -- on mail sent to customers and partners. ...

For the past year, consumers have been able to create personal stamps, with pictures of babies, pets and other loved ones, for about twice the cost of a regular stamp. But advertising was barred from stamps until earlier this year when Congress overturned a 19th-century law barring commercial images on stamps. ...

I can't claim to have thought long and hard about this, or that it would matter if I had, but it seems to me that the lines between the public and private sectors are becoming blurred as public-private partnerships proliferate in response to budgetary pressures, and private donors require recognition from the government as a condition of supporting universities, parks, stadiums, cleaning litter (in return for recognition on road signs), etc. So if you'd care to weigh in, I'm interested in hearing thoughts on where these lines ought to be.

    Posted by on Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Policy, Politics, Regulation | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (13)


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