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The Post Office: Neither snow nor rain

THE US Postal Service has an unofficial creed (above) that harks back to Herodotus, who was admiring the Persian empire’s stalwart messengers. Its own history is impressive too, dating to a royal licence by William and Mary in 1692, and including Benjamin Franklin as a notable postmaster, both for the crown (which dismissed him in 1774 for his revolutionary leanings) and then for the newly independent country. Ever since, the post has existed “to bind the Nation together”.

But as ever more Americans go online instead of sending paper, the volume of mail has been plummeting (see chart right). The decline is steeper than even pessimists expected a decade ago, says Patrick Donahoe, the current postmaster-general. Worse, because the post must deliver to every address in the country—about 150m, with some 1.4m additions every year—costs are simultaneously going up. As a result, the post has lost $20 billion in the last four years and expects to lose another $8 billion this fiscal year.And although the recession made everything worse, the internet is the main culprit. As Christmas cards have gone online (and “green…

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