On Sundays during the 19th century, post offices were a place to hang out. Or, as one historian said, “Men would rush there as soon as the mail arrived, staying on to drink and play cards.” By 1912, though, with a religious lobby opposing Sunday delivery and the telegraph available for the business people who wanted seven day service, the Congress said no more Sunday regular mail delivery…
…until Amazon changed their minds.
Where are we going? To how Amazon’s lobbying changes the market.
The Amazon Connection
The year was 2013 and Amazon had helped to convince the United States Postal Service (USPS) not to cancel Saturday deliveries. Unable to save money by eliminating Saturday, the USPS instead added some revenue with a Sunday package delivery deal for Amazon Prime customers.
Now the U.S. government is again feeling a nudge from Amazon.
Trying to figure out drone regulation, the U.S. House of Representatives heard from Amazon. One Amazon goal was to eliminate any line-of-sight vision requisites that might limit their ability to make deliveries where the drone was no longer visible. A second objective was to persuade the Congress that object-avoiding sensors made their drones sufficiently safe. But even with their third wish for outdoor test flights having just gotten approved, Amazon says the government is moving too slowly.
Meanwhile, moving back down to earth, we have Amazon’s lobbying for bigger trucks. Whereas the federal maximum length for a twin trailer truck is 28 feet, Amazon supports a five foot extension. I assume longer trucks save money and time.
Our Bottom Line: A Mixed Economy
As far back as 1776, Adam Smith was quite aware that the market needs government. With an army to protect us, the courts to interpret the law, the schools for better human capital and a monetary system to facilitate exchange, government helps the market function optimally. However, when government does more, we have stepped across a line that takes us beyond the market’s laissez-faire. Then, we have a mixed economy where government influences consumer and business behavior as an economic participant.
Thinking of the Congress and Amazon, we can ask how much government has moved into mixed economy territory.