By Nathan Barton
Seems that folks are ticked at United Airlines. Dragging passengers off, overbooking and refusing to let passengers be passengers (by overbooking), and all kinds of other things have people posting and tweeting and more against United.
And, as always, there is the “there-oughta-be-a-law” crowd right out there screaming with the rest of them. And some of THAT crowd include the lawmakers itching to… well, to make more laws! They want the government to get involved to make sure that United doesn’t mistreat more customers, and of course, that the other dozen or so airlines serving the Fifty States don’t get any ideas from United. They are screaming for “Action Now.”
In essence, what these people are saying is that they do not want the free market to work – or even exist. They want someone with a gun (or who has a guy with a gun at his beck-and-call) to get on that plane (figuratively or literally) and tell that pilot and those flight attendants how to do their job and what they can and cannot do to and with passengers. And they want other people with guns to interfere with private contracts and tell people what they can and cannot buy.
This is, of course, nothing new – it has happened hundreds (if not thousands) of times in the past 150+ years. It happens a little faster now than in the past: newspapers and letters were supplemented by television and radio and telephones, and now it is blogs and websites and instant messaging and e-mails. But the process is the same. Something happens that people get all het up over, and scream loudly enough that some politician stands up and proclaims “something must be done” (It does have to be a subject which does not threaten the politicians’ power and prerogatives (or those of their patrons) – or better yet, increases it.) And very quickly, some staffer writes a bill which says that a bureaucrat will (usually figuratively) whack off the hands of companies X, Y, Z, etc. and those of their employees if they even think of doing something like that again.
And since a good part of the problem in the first place is government meddling and passing laws like that in the past, nothing really improves. Oh, that particular action might not be done again, but there will be CONSEQUENCES. More cost, more hassle, more time, greater risk and so forth.
In United’s case, although it is not a monopoly, in many places government regulations and decisions have effectively made it one (as far as air travel goes). The very actions which are ticking people off are caused in part to respond to government’s regs and the decision of bureaucrats (to fix other perceived problems). The free market has been thwarted and castigated by government, directly and indirectly.
United is NOT interested in ticking off people unnecessarily. They realize that even if there are not other airlines flying the particular route potential customers what to use, there are alternatives such as driving (even if just to a different airport and airline location). They realize that in order to provide services at a reasonable cost, that they must sometimes do things that anger people. But they also realize that the market will punish them for doing that – and that is what is happening right now.
Perfection is not possible. Especially not if government gets MORE involved in affairs like this. Everything that government does is far, far more likely to create MORE problems like this than it is to eliminate the issues (or even reduce them significantly). People angry at United for poor customer service need to think about the quality of service provided by government agencies at all level – and the choice (or lack of choice) offered by United versus the FedGov or local drivers’ license bureau.
Mama’s Note: Absolutely, Nathan. The thing that is so amazing is that this particular problem, overbooking, could be dealt with so very easily otherwise – instead of becoming a media circus. Each ticket could be issued with the clear instructions that overbooking might happen, and detailing the compensation offered to anyone who would stand by for another flight. There would be no grounds, then, for misunderstanding.
And then, the airline would board the first people who show up! The idea of sending goons into the aircraft later to pull someone out, especially battered and bloody, is insane. That’s assault and battery, and in a free market wouldn’t likely happen because that passenger might be ARMED. And would be perfectly within his rights to resist assault with deadly force.