The case to get rid of the Federal Aviation Administration

If you oppose public schooling, you are thought to be against education; the possibility that you favor private institutions of learning never quite arises.  If you reject government highways as congested death traps, you are seen as an opponent of travel by roads and streets.  If you do not favor socialized medicine, many opine that you are an enemy of good health, not a proponent of free enterprise in this field.

Likewise, if you want the Federal Aviation Administration disbanded, your views are rejected as maniacal, since this implies that you want planes to crash and passengers to be killed.

Nothing can be farther from the truth.  Instead, the cry "disband the FAA" is a move in the direction of more safety, not less.

How can this be?  The FAA is a coercive bureau.  No passenger-carrying plane gets off the ground without the FAA's imprimatur.  It does not lose any money when it makes a type I error, allowing an unsafe plane into the air (as in the cases of the Boeing 737 Max).  Nor will this occur when it commits the type II error, keeping safe aircraft in their hangars.  It is thus impervious to bankruptcy, no matter how poor a job it does.

The alternative to the monopolistic FAA is a competitive certification industry.  Private firms give the thumbs-up sign to those aircraft they deem airworthy and withhold it from those that do not pass muster.  Airplanes can still operate without these Good Housekeeping Seals of Approval, just as a non-certified public accountant can still practice.  But many consumers may well base their decisions on such certifications.  If, for example, a medical certification firm approved of thalidomide, a morning sickness drug that leads to birth defects, as did the governmental licensing bureau, the Food and Drug Administration, it would soon enough become distrusted, lose clients, and be forced to exit from the industry.  It would leave in its wake its ex-competitors, who did not err in this regard and thus are likely to be more competent.

It is to this profit and loss competitive system, not government agencies, that we owe our safety regarding a myriad of goods and services.  For example, in the financial world of stocks and bonds, there are Fitch, Moody's, and Standard and Poor.  Factories and engineers, rely on universal testing laboratories, not government bureaucrats.  Then there are brand names; people trust McDonalds, Wendy's, and Burger King for clean premises and safe food, not the state apparatus.  There is also Consumer Reports, which tests everything from mattresses to vacuum cleaners to automobiles.  It is time, it is past time, to incorporate the market process to ensure safety in the airline industry.

It would be all well and good if the FAA were staffed by geniuses, or angels, or creatures who never erred.  Alas, they are merely made of flesh and blood, like all the rest of us.  The error made by those who support government regulatory bureaus of this sort is not contemplating scenarios when they are at fault.  Then all's well. But when they make mistakes, as all people do, there is no automatic mechanism through which they can be replaced.  The FAA is thus a brittle institution, fine in fair weather, not reliable in foul.

In contrast, there is an automatic weeding out system in place with private enterprise certification.  Perfection will not be attained herein, either.  But at least there will be a continuous and automatic process of improvement.

If you experience technical problems, please write to