Raymond Aron, the French liberal-conservative philosopher, wrote a book titled In Defense of Decadent Europe (Plaidoyer pour l’Europe décadente, Paris, 1977) where, if my memory serves, he took “decadent” as a badge of honor vis-à-vis the authoritarian and austere communist dictatorships of his time. Hic et nunc, we can take the word in its pejorative sense to describe the sort of decadent, crony quasi-capitalism that seems more and more to be replacing the free market.

Another illustration may have been provided by a report in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Apparently, plans are under discussions for either “a potential voluntary shutdown of virtually all passenger flights across the U.S.” or simply a federal government’s order: “U.S. Domestic Passenger Flights Could Virtually Shut Down, Voluntarily or by Government Order,” Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2020. And, if the report is correct, the airlines are not fighting the idea, on the contrary:

Airlines generally favor government orders rather than voluntary industry initiatives, partly because a mandate would provide airlines with extra ammunition in their ongoing lobbying for federal aid. “They would definitely prefer the government did it,” according to one industry official familiar with the deliberations. In addition, a voluntary shutdown could run afoul of some existing labor contracts that stipulate minimum levels of flights, according to other government and industry officials.

It would be better for the traveling public and for the future of capitalism and liberty if the airline owners who can’t run airlines just declared bankruptcy. The airlines’ assets would be purchased at bargain prices by more efficient entrepreneurs and operators. American skies could also be opened to foreign competition without restrictions. Of course, as things are going, it could be worse: the federal government could then nationalize one or many airlines, creating an American Aeroflot.