Would the Private Sector Make You Wear an Airplane Seatbelt?
This week I tweeted:
What argument do defenders of government-mandated airline seatbelt paternalism use? It can’t be that plane crashes aren’t salient to buyers.
Note that I’m asking why the government has to mandate seatbelt usage. Since people overestimate the chance of dying in a plane crash, I suspect that in the absence of government mandates customers would usually vote with their feet for airlines with strong safety records and strong-seeming safety practices. Nervous customers would choose the safest-looking airlines: And seatbelts make people feel safe.
The fact that plane crashes are overly salient thus becomes an argument against government seatbelt rules. The failure of ironclad rationality becomes an argument against government paternalism.
Coda: My colleague Gary Leff, airline expert, did a good job blogging the issue here, with a focus on why mandatory seatbelt use is rational. A big reason noted by Leff and his commenters: Inflight turbulence turns your fellow passengers into projectiles. Again, I’d predict that without government mandates, private airline rules would enforce a “sit down and belt up” rule.