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The Most Depressing Business Story of the Year


I'd never heard of Outbox, a now-defunct "digital mail" service which operated in Austin and San Francisco. Notice that's digital mail, not email. What Outbox did was, for a small monthly fee, receive all of your snail mail for you, scan it, and then make it available to you digitally on your computer or smartphone. Outbox could even halt delivery of junk mail. The genius bit is that the Post Office would still receive the full postage price for delivering cross-country mail no further than the local Outbox processing center. USPS is losing billions of dollars a year, mostly due to the overhead of their outdated and outmoded and largely unwanted delivery model.

Having found its salvation, naturally the Postmaster General killed it dead:

When Evan and Will got called in to meet with the Postmaster General they were joined by the USPS’s General Counsel and Chief of Digital Strategy. But instead, Evan recounts that US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe “looked at us” and said “we have a misunderstanding. ‘You disrupt my service and we will never work with you.’” Further, “‘You mentioned making the service better for our customers; but the American citizens aren’t our customers—about 400 junk mailers are our customers. Your service hurts our ability to serve those customers.”’

Outbox closed down in February, following the valiant-but-desperate attempt to stay afloat by picking up your mail from your mailbox, after the Post Office refused to continue forwarding to Outbox.

Are you steamed yet? Read on:

According to Evan, the Chief of Digital Strategy’s comments were even more stark, “[Your market model] will never work anyway. Digital is a fad. It will only work in Europe.”

And here's what the USPS had to say in its defense, in its entirety:

Hi Derek

Thanks for contacting us about your story. Please see our statement below—that is all we have to say on this topic at this time.


Dave Partenheimer

Manager, Media Relations

U.S. Postal Service

The Postal Service is focused on providing an essential service in our mission to serve the American public and does not view Outbox as supporting that mission. We do have concerns regarding the destruction of mail—even if authorized by the receiver—and will continue to monitor market activities to ensure protection of our brand and the value and security of the mail.

These are the same government types now in charge of most of the economy and trying desperately to gain "control" of the environment. The more decisions government gets to make over the private sector, the less room there is for disruption, and innovation -- the three things which make a dynamic, growing economy happen.

What happened to Outbox is just a small taste of what we might as well admit is The New Stasis.

Progressivism, as I've had to say many times now, is an essentially feudal ideology.