Scenes from the Rent-Seeking Society: Norwegian Airlines Can't Fly to the US
By Art Carden
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).