Unless you locked yourself away in your wine cellar since the beginning of this month, you are well aware of the appalling course United Airlines took regarding the removal of a passenger (albeit stubborn and defiant). After Dr. Dao refused to comply with requests/orders from the crew to give up his seat, security guards beat and bloodied him before dragging him unceremoniously down the plane’s aisle.
Out of this fiasco two important lessons emerge, notes Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute.
(1) For anyone who would justify the overreaction of police: “The use of force, especially by those in authority, should be proportional to the offense. Being stubborn, impolite, or defiant isn’t grounds for assault.” Certainly in this case, there was no excuse for the use of excessive force.
(2) For those who would “grow” government, a larger lesson: The market, not government, frequently is “the best mechanism for addressing business misconduct.”
- United received billions of dollars in bad publicity.
- Customers threatened to take their business elsewhere.
- Stock prices declined, losing 4 percent — $770 million — of its value in the week after the incident (it has since partially recovered).
- CEO Oscar Munez stands to lose $500,000 in bonus money if customer satisfaction doesn’t improve. (If?)
Responding to consumer pressure, United has changed procedures. No longer will crewmembers or other employees be allowed to replace seated customers. Unless safety or security is an issue, no longer will law enforcement be asked to remove seated customers. Gate agents will undergo a new training program.
It didn’t take Congress or the president to force these changes. It wasn’t the courts (though lawsuits are pending). We didn’t need a new law or regulation. It was the pressure brought by individual consumers and investors acting on their preferences (and self-interest) in a free market.
Michael compares this to government response when it fails:
- We are still waiting for the Veterans Administration to change its behavior or punish those responsible for its various scandals over many years.
- The public schools fail year after year, decade after decade, and their response is to demand more money and try to prevent parents from going elsewhere.
- The IRS, the TSA, the NSA, even your local DMV provide example after example.
- Whether ineffective, inefficient, or outright abusive government programs, agencies, and institutions are immune from the pressures and oversight that markets impose on a daily basis.
When searching for social justice against the free market enemy, the Left is “precisely wrong,” Michael Tanner argues. “The free market doesn’t just create the wealth that makes justice possible, it gives all of us a voice in enforcing it. That’s real power to the people.”
Read more here.