Rebels, and Mavericks, and Anarchists…Oh My!

I love rebels, mavericks, individualists, nonconformists, anarchists.

You know, people who question the rules and buck the system.

So I’m a big fan of Lysander Spooner.

Odds are that name doesn’t ring any bells for you.

Well, Spooner lived more than 150 years ago, and he was all those things I just mentioned. So much so that he dared grapple with the U.S. Government over its monopoly on mail delivery.

He almost put the U.S. Post Office out of business!

Crazy, right?

Postage rates were nutz back in 1844. Heck, sending a quarter-ounce letter from Boston to Albany via the Western Railroad cost almost as much as the freight charge for carrying a barrel of flour the same distance.

Spooner was, well, a mite pissed. So he launched his own private postal service — boldly named The American Letter Mail Company — and began delivering mail more efficiently and at much lower prices.

Spooner’s postal business rocketed.

Government postal revenues tanked.

So politicians did then just as they do now whenever they’re challenged.

They targeted Lysander Spooner for destruction.

Lawmakers threatened the railroad with the removal of all government mails unless space and passage were refused to private letter carriers. An agent of Spooner’s company was actually found guilty and fined for transporting letters in a railroad car over a “U.S. post road.”

Spooner fought the feds in court. Arguments flew.

The Postmaster General at last bowed to public demand and asked Congress to reduce government postal rates.

Government rates dropped.

But so did Spooner’s.

Finally, in 1851, Congress played its final hand. It passed a law to protect the government’s monopoly on mail distribution.

Spooner was forced out of business.

But by then, his American Letter Mail Company had competitively pushed the government postal rate down to 3¢ for letter delivery anywhere in the country.

And it stayed there for more than a century.

Spooner may have lost the battle, but he won the war.

That’s what unconventional entrepreneurs do. They question the rules. They mix it up. They make money in a venture. Then they move on when that venture’s tapped out or the market changes.

I’ve spent the past week or so listening to more than a dozen mavericks talk about their businesses — — and I’ve discovered something.

If your gut tells you something needs doing, just start doing it.

Worry about the what-if’s and details later.

Who knows? You might make a century-long impact like Lysander Spooner!

(Incidentally, if you click on the link above and happen to buy sumptin’, I’ll be getting a few dollars for having sent you there. Hope you don’t have a problem with that.)

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