Art Carden  

Scenes from the Rent-Seeking Society: Norwegian Airlines Can't Fly to the US

It's a Busy Week in the Carden... Huemer's "The Use of Hypotheti...

I love traveling, and I might be one of the few people on earth who actually enjoys flying. Trouble is, flying is pretty expensive, and it's especially expensive if you want to go overseas. There's an obvious solution: let more airlines compete. Alas, foreign airlines are not allowed to fly US domestic routes, and some airlines are prevented from offering international service to and from the United States.

Norwegian Air's plans to fly between the US and Europe are recent casualties of the rent-seeking society. According to USA Today:

The House approved legislation Tuesday to prevent a Norwegian airline from flying to the USA because of concerns the low-cost carrier will dodge international labor rules.

The article is short and worth reading. Notice the rhetoric: the president of the pilots union refers to "foreign airlines that try to cheat the system." This is a pretty obvious attempt to retain privileges for special interests, but it is couched in the language of fear (safety, "foreign airlines" [emphasis added]) and fairness ("that try to cheat the system").

The winners: domestic special interests like the major US carriers and their employees' unions.

The losers: travelers--many of whom are Americans--and the people with whom they might choose to do business.

Note that the House is controlled by Republicans. Consider this evidence that they are not free-market zealots, or that being "pro-business" isn't the same thing as believing in free markets (I explained for Forbes here in 2010).

HT: The Skeptical Libertarian.

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CATEGORIES: Regulation

COMMENTS (8 to date)
Philo writes:

"Consider this evidence that they are not free-market zealots . . . ." As if we needed *more* evidence!

ThomasH writes:

Don't worry. No one has ever suspected Republicans of favoring markets or economic freedom or growth or any of the things they claim to favor.

Mark V Anderson writes:

Good post. We need more discussion on airline protectionism. A few decades ago, the domestic market was liberalized, and now everyone can afford to fly. Maybe if we let in foreign airlines, maybe there would be competition for comfort, so more than Art would like to fly. I detest it myself, and can see lots of steps that could be taken to make it less stifling if the airlines simply made an effort.

Curtis L. writes:

There are rules. This airline breaks the rules. What do you propose be done? Other than change the rules.

zc writes:

Wow @Curtis L. Art will be professional and courteous should he respond, so I'll be the guy to say whatever any reasonably intelligent person reading this post would think.

You're either an airline employee or a fool Curtis. Yes, there are rules, but the question raised is, what is the purpose of those rules? Is it really safety (of employees, travelers, or 3rd parties), or are they a thinly veiled attempt to protect vested interests/incumbents.

It's happened a time or two that wily legislators and lobbyists have crafted rules under the guise of 'for the good of the children' or some such nicety, while the rules actually benefit an entirely different special interest/party financially. But that was probably just in the old days, nobody in today's Washington would pay off Congressmen or other officials to help get a financial edge...

Art Carden writes:

@Curtis: thank you for taking the time to comment. Absolutely, change the rules. Are they there to protect the public? My sources say no. Are they there to protect the incomes of special interests? My sources say yes.

Curtis L. writes:

@Art, but the post isn't about changing the rules. It was about the enforcement of those rules in a specific case where an airline obviously broke them. Those are two separate issues.

@zc I'm neither an airline employee nor a fool. I would love for you to review the comments policy on this website. I'm surprised your comment got through moderation.

hanmeng writes:

It's not "fair" to cheat "the system" but it's "fair" to cheat the consumer.

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