German efficiency, postal edition

I had a letter to send, and so I looked up the nearest post office and was pleasantly surprised to find that there were half a dozen within walking distance of my apartment. I headed to the closest one, but at the indicated address, there wasn’t a post office, but an eyeglass store. Still, there was a Deutsche Post sign outside, so I went in.

“Can I really send a letter from here?” I asked the clerk.

“Of course,” she said. “Come on back.”

She took me to a back room, where she had a Deutsche Post scale and a chart showing the various prices. I paid, and she told me the mail would be picked up tonight.

Germany privatized its postal service in 1995. Deutsche Post has clearly done some clever things since then. By “outsourcing” most of its simple post office operations to private businesses, it cuts its costs, and it also allows people to send packages without waiting in endless lines. Great system all around.

Goes to show that “efficient welfare state” doesn’t just mean “massive state-run bureaucracy.”


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