GLZORP, Freedonia.Â ForÂ decades, Freedonia has been a philatelistâ€™s haven, producing much-needed supplemental income for Dzirk Drovenzia, a flax and cardamom farmer in this, the countryâ€™s second-largest province.
â€œWhen the crops she fail,â€ says Drovenzia in his broken English, â€œI could always got through the winter answering letters from rich Americans.Â Now, this is no longer so more true.â€
Indeed, World Bank economists say Freedoniaâ€™s postage stamps were its principal cash crop, yielding valuable reserves of foreign currencies the national government, a hybrid of socialism, capitalism and astigmatism, could use to purchaseÂ grain, parts forÂ hydro-electric turbinesÂ and Little Debbie Cakes, which are used in religious ceremonies by Zoroastrians, theÂ largest religious denomination here.
But email has changed all that.Â Stamps have fallen out of favor as more people around the world become comfortable with email, which has overcome concerns about privacy and security to become the most widely-used medium for circulating tuna-noodle casserole recipes and dumb blonde jokes.
â€œFreedonia, along with Monaco and Montenegro, became too dependent on postage stamp revenues,â€ says David Anderson, a specialist in so-called â€œsecond-worldâ€ economic development.Â â€œThey should have developed a folk music by downtrodden natives that could be covered by white rock musicians such as Eric Claptonâ€“then the tourist dollars would be rolling in.â€
In the old days, Freedonia cranked out â€œfirst-day coversâ€â€“envelopes on which new postage stamps had been cancelled on the first day of issueâ€“on occasions large and small, or no occasion at all.Â â€œI was channel surfing one day on satellite TV and saw a Peyton Manning ad and Carrie Fischer as Princess Leia,â€ says former Minister of Stamps Oleg Dnitria.Â â€œThat was our biggest seller, as we tapped both the NFL fan base and Star Wars dweebniskis.â€
Dnitria says he has wracked his brain to come up with a revenue source to replace postage stamps, but so far to no avail.Â â€œWe have tried to become the coupon redemption center of the world,â€ he notes with a far-off look in his eyes, â€œbut someplace called Battle Creek, Michigan has the market cornered.â€
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection "Hail Freedonia!"