28 December 2012

Postage Theft

Perusing the federal criminal code for long-buried crimes, I ran across 18 USC 1720 which makes it a crime to reuse a postage stamp. Not only is it a crime, but Congress in its efforts to stamp out crime has provided that a person may be incarcerated for up to one year for reusing a postage stamp. Occasionally one will see a stamped envelope where the stamp was not properly cancelled. Since stamps now cost 45 cents, it is quite natural to think that it might be used a second time, no one knowing the better. Don't do it. You will have committed a criminal act therefore making you, at least in your own mind, a criminal. There are those who believe reusing a postage stamp is perfectly acceptable. If the post office can't properly cancel a stamp, then who are we not to use the thing again. It saves almost one-half of a dollar and is the thrifty sort of thing to do. The United States Post Office is charged with covering its costs. This was a Ronald Reagan enactment. Since the USPS charges for its services they should cover their costs if not actually make a profit. Why this most necessary function of government should be singled out to cover its cost is uncertain. Surely there are other ways the United States government can cover some of its costs. I suggest they rent out some air craft carriers to China or Japan. Russia might even be in the market for some warships. This would be a huge boon to the United States Navy. It would take a lot of stamps to cover the rental of a major warship for a year. When enacting a criminal statute it does not appear to be a relevant factor that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person committed the crime. With the crime of reusing a used postage stamp, it would appear that the only method of proof would be to have a snitch. It doesn't appear that the United States Post Office has the technology to determine the reuse of postage; if it even exists. If it is clear that no one will ever be prosecuted for reusing a postage stamp, why does Congress make it a crime to do so? This question should be posed to our congressmen and senators. More than likely, no response will be given in that they have way too many important matters to deal with and can't be bothered with postage stamp theft. Enacting crimes is a fun thing to do; it enhances one's view of oneself as a ethical leader. It is one more step in the continuing project of the correction of immoral, public conduct.