Ground Clutter - Market Drivers

April 8, 2001

Market Drivers

By Ralph Hood

April 2001

USA TODAY loves airline stories. The paper’s readership includes a lot of frequent flyers, and they gobble up airline news. For some reason, though, the paper seems to prefer disaster and exposure stories.

Sometimes, they don’t even wait for accidents to happen. They wonder in advance — in big print headlines — if this or that trend means more fatalities in the future.
Well, there’s good news. Hidden away on page three of a recent USA TODAY is a report that should make the airline industry proud as a teenager with a new drivers’ license. In spite of all the horror stories, airline fatalities have actually gone down a little. The big story is that this has happened during a period when the number of airline flights more than doubled. Any way you look at it, that’s good news.
According to an M.I.T. professor cited in the article, the risk of dying on a U.S. airline was one in 12 million during the 1990s. You’ve probably got a better chance of getting money from Ed McMahon.
Most industries exhibit a great deal of chaos during growth periods. The airline industry has performed nothing short of a minor miracle by improving safety during this period of unprecedented growth.
I must, of course, point out that this took place during the two decades after the deregulation that was, according to the hand-wringing sob sisters, going to bring the wrath of God down upon us and kill more people than the biblical plagues.
Congratulations, airlines. You are flying more people more places more safely for less money. Furthermore, you have given us a beacon to point to when liberals moan, groan, and explain that the free market needs guvmint control.

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Things really do go better when run by the market …
Here in Huntsville, AL, the local guvmint built a new highway across a mountain. (Well, we call it a mountain. It’s about 3,000 feet high, including the TV antenna on top. It’s the biggest hill we’ve got, though, so we call it a mountain.) After a brief period, the highway tried to slide off the mountain. The slide didn’t reach the road itself, but did eat up a little of the shoulder in one spot. To my amazement, the guvmint closed the road completely for months while they fixed the new road. During the last half of last year that highway became the most expensive hiking trail in the state. Scamp dog and I walked it regularly.
I don’t know diddley about highways, but I know this: If that highway belonged to the Marriott hotel chain, they would have fixed it a lot faster and they never would have closed it. They would have put up a sign that said "Pardon the Inconvenience" and kept it open and running the whole time.
Near Mt. Saint Helens is a visible line through a forest. On one side of the line are tall trees, newly grown since the volcano erupted. On the other side of the line are much smaller trees and underbrush. On the tall-tree side they rushed in after the disaster, harvested the fallen trees, and planted new ones. On the other side they did nothing. One side belongs to Weyerhaeuser, the other side belongs to the guvmint.
Now, boys and girls, can you guess which side is owned by the guvmint and which side by the market-driven company?