Nothing lasts forever, but stamps are making a pitch for immortality. Beginning next year, all first-class stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service will be “forever” stamps, that will continue to be valid no matter how much the price of postage increases.

For the customer, that means that not having to buy 1- and 2-cent stamps every time the price goes up. It also means that price increases will not only be inevitable, but also easier to slip by without as much notice from the public.

The Postal Service is continuing to find its way in an environment that forced it to compete with e-mail with attached documents for personal and business communications as well as companies like FedEx and UPS for package delivery.

The Postal Service, which was set up when it was the only game in town, receives only a small subsidy from the federal government (for things like delivery of materials to the blind and absentee ballots for overseas service members) and has to rely on postage and fee collections to make ends meet.

Home delivery of letters seems like a need that will never go away, but telegrams were once considered a necessary medium of communication, and when was the last time anyone got one of those?

If the Postal Service’s only answer is to keep pushing the price of postage up faster than the rate of inflation, the public will look for other ways to communicate, whether their stamps say forever on them or not.

The one thing for sure about communications in this era, and that is just as true for newspapers and magazines as it is for cards and letters, is that we live in a dynamic era when rapid change is the norm.

Every institution has to keep up or prepare to be run over, and nothing really lasts forever.


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