The FAA and government regulation


I’ve been bad about writing (I finally have an excuse…I recently bought a house), so in an effort to get a post in, I’m going to post a few comments from a Facebook conversation I’m currently having about the FAA and government regulation as a whole. I’m going to first quote my debate partner and then the rest of the post will be my response to him. Debate is fun because it forces you to do some research and learn when your view is challenged.

If the same rules would exist without government, why wasn’t there an industry-sponsored group pushing safety when the FAA was created? You’re making three erroneous assumptions: 1) people have perfect access to information about market events, 2) people have alternatives in things like airlines, and 3) it would cost an airline less to make massive safety changes than what they would lose in business from people newly afraid to fly on the airline. Maintaining the status quo is always the right choice from a free market perspective. Thus, safety never improves.

So I don’t know much about the history of airline safety and the FAA, so I did some quick research on the topic.

Ironically, it was the airline industry and not the government that was pushing for safety. At that point the government managed the airmail industry and had a very good safety record relative to the commercial industry. It actually took a bit of time for legislative action to take effect because the commercial industry was small and it didn’t seem worth it. Why they didn’t just adopt the standards voluntarily, I’m not sure, but it may have had something to do with creating consumer confidence. If there never were legislative action, I’m sure that the industry would have figured something out. Anyway to say that the existence of the FAA proves that the market is incapable of providing solutions for itself is committing the fallacy of denying the antecedent, especially when organizations like ASME (which you seemed to miss in my last post), NFPA, UL, FM, etc. exist.

On to my apparent erroneous assumptions…

1. There is no such thing as “perfect knowledge,” which is why I advocate for the ideas and solutions of the many and not one decided by a few people. It is actually you who suffers from this erroneous assumption that it is possible to gain perfect access to information because it is the government who claims their solutions are the best and will prevent anyone else from instituting their own. How can you suggest that you know you’re correct unless you claim to have perfect knowledge?

2. People don’t have alternatives to airlines? Well, first of all, there are several different airlines to choose from. And secondly, I have several alternatives to traveling that are not airlines. I can drive, take trains, sail on ships, etc.

3. I assume you meant to say “cost more.” How do you know how much those things would cost? And it’s not just the loss of business from new customers…they lose the aircraft when it crashes and need to replace it. Anyway, the creation of the ASME completely disproves your point. I find it interesting that you tried to make a point that I showed to be incorrect in the post you were responding to.

The free market prefers to maintain the status quo? I assume you have a smartphone near or on you. Hold it in your hand and while looking at it say, “Maintaining the status quo is always the right choice from a free market perspective” again.

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