Nation: The Enduring Mail Mess

One mailman compared the postal strike to a volcano. In its sudden fury, the stoppage that began last week was indeed cataclysmic, but labor trouble has been only one of the latent threats to the mail service. The Post Office Department has long suffered from deteriorating facilities, a chaotic financing method and archaic approaches to both moving mail and administering the organization.

There have been ample warnings of impending collapse in recent years. Mail service in Chicago broke down during the 1963 Christmas season. Three years later, the Chicago post office simply ground to a halt for nearly three weeks under a...