This is one of those times I’ll wander away from guns and into my sort of side-interest in aviation.Â Someone e-mails Instapundit in regards to an FAA bill:
There is also an automatic assumption that â€œprivatizingâ€ air traffic will somehow always be more cost effective than what we are already doing. Itâ€™s an article of faith, much like Socialists/Communists always seem to think that their system will work (despite a century of mass graves, economic failure, and oppression) if only the right people were running things. The world already has a wide variety of air traffic control systems in use. There are public, private, and public/private air traffic systems all around the world. The US system has the lowest cost per operation in the developed world. We also have the safest system, while running more traffic than the rest of the world combined. Rather than automatically demonizing people that are trying to improve what is already the safest, busiest, and most cost-effective air traffic system in the world, Iâ€™d ask your readers to find the working business model out there in the world that will out-perform what we are doing now. Not just an automatic assumption that a private enterprise just has to be more efficient, but a system in use somewhere else. Iâ€™m not saying it canâ€™t be done, but I am from Missouri on this. Show me. Or should we just assume that it will be more efficient if the right people are running it?
Glenn notes that Canada has a private ATC system, and I believe Eurocontrol is a private consortium as well. I’m not well familiar with how these systems operate, but I suspect there’s still a very high degree of public control.
One fear I would have of privatized air traffic control would be that the large scheduled carriers would dominate any consortium. Those large carriers would have no incentive to allow general aviation or even smaller scheduled or non-scheduled carriers to use their system at anything close to a reasonable price. A completely private system would essentially be handing a public resource, namely the skies, over to private interests who have bad incentives to monopolize the resource as much as possible.
Typically when we do things like this, such as for rights-of-ways for wires and pipes, we regulate them as public utilities. This kind of regulated market is not really a free market in any recognizable sense, and given that, it’s hard to see the case for privatization from a free market perspective.