Wednesday, May 11, 2016

When Did You Last Receive a Letter

I have received quite literally sacks of letters demanding to know how my orchid is getting along.  You know, the one that was at death's door several weeks ago.  Well it's still at deaths door but is showing a remarkable reluctance to actually step through.  Indeed, careful nurturing and removing it from direct sunlight sparked quite a renaissance in its health leading to lush green leaves and beautiful flowers.

The unexpected and completely untypical health of a plant in my care led to the unusual situation of my colleagues placing their more shabby looking orchids next to mine in the hope they would catch whatever mine had.  They must have done because my orchid is now looking sick again.  One whole branch is a dry brown colour and the number of flowers and fresh growth is dropping by the day.  Way to infect me with your failure guys.

However I think a far more important question that arises from the statement above is "Who the hell sends letters nowadays?"  I don't, nobody I know does.  The only people I can think of who send letters are the various utility providers who mail me their bills.  Even these are constantly demanding that I switch to electronic billing (which I pointblank refuse to do) and to force me down this path are now charging me for the acting of sending me a bill.  In years to come I confidently expect penalties for not embracing electronic billing to include employees of the utility company in question coming around and burning down my home.  An act which, thanks to the child safety locks on my windows, I shall not survive.

Still, snail mail is in decline.  Not surprisingly so is Australia Post.  I'm pretty sure I remember a time when government bodies were set up to serve the public rather than make a profit but if I told anyone younger than me this they would stare at me in disbelief.  Now that almost nobody sends mail any more a business based on charging people for sending mail is struggling to make ends meet.  Rather than try and make Australia Post turn a profit we should have a discussion on whether we actually need a postal service any more.  If the answer is "no" then get rid of it (sell it if anyone is stupid enough to buy it) but if the answer is "yes" then keep it and stop worrying about whether the damned thing turns a profit or not.  As a general rule governments provide services that the private sector either can't or won't.  Usually for the very good reason that there's no money in it.

Instead the Australia Post is currently attempting to repair the holes in its balance sheet by increasing the price of stamps (you know, the ones that nobody buys anymore because nobody sends letters) and selling off the GPOs in various state capitals.  These tend to be grand old buildings at the heart of the city that were built at a time when the government felt that spending money on an essential service was something that should be boasted about with pride rather than admitted to in shame followed by a rapid changing of the subject.  What Australia Post is going to do once it runs out of old buildings to sell and the price of stamps nobody is buying has reached $100 each is a little difficult to say.

I am not a fan of government intervention as a whole.  The idea that somebody who couldn't get any job other than working for the government might be able to make a valuable contribution to any situation would be laughable if it wasn't so wretched.  Nevertheless there are things that governments must do if only because individually we can't or won't.  Public transport is vital but nobody wants to pay for it so the government has to rob us and then pay for it.  Fair enough.  Healthcare is patchily dealt with by the private sector at best and if one admits that maybe it would be better if most of the population didn't expire in misery of disease then, again, the government has to rob us and pay for it.

However there seems to be a demented eagerness for the government to get involved in virtually everything we do while simultaneously attempting to exit the only things that we actually need them to do.  The attempt to sell off government services marches hand in hand with "initiatives" of all sorts to regulate most aspects of our life.  I suspect this is because the former is supposed to do things for us while the latter simply do things to us.  As such it is a hell of a lot harder to determine failure in the latter and, of course, we don't mind too much if they do fail.  The description somebody once gave of the Habsburg monarchy comes irresistibly to mind, "Tyranny tempered by incompetence."

As for me failure is much easier to identify.  The increasingly dry and withered aspect of my orchid is a silent accusation.  I have moved it away from the plague carrier orchids near it and have bathed it in warm light and sunshine.  Hopefully this will have an affect.  If not I may have to apply to a government programme for help.  AusOrchids in the Workplace, a Department of the Environment initiative may be helpful if I can prove my orchid is either indigenous or disabled.  I should have no problems with the second.

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