Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Sky Isn't Falling and Other Regulator Nightmares

The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Page editor, James Taranto, has penned yet another incisive op-ed -- this one devastating to the out-of-control regulators in the US. Taranto perfectly expresses the the regulators' problem with having no problems, so read on:

The Sky Isn't Falling!

And regulators are worried.

A corollary of the old man-bites-dog adage is that it's news when a plane crashes, but not when a plane lands safely. A recent Bloomberg dispatch challenges that assumption. The lead sentence: "More than a decade has passed since the last major-airline accident on U.S. soil."

Come to think of it, that is news of a sort, and precisely because safe flights usually aren't news. It's been so long since we thought about accidental plane crashes that it didn't occur to us until now that the last major one was in November 2001. (It was an American Airlines flight to the Dominican Republic, which crashed shortly after takeoff from New York. At first everyone thought it was terrorism.)

Danger! Safe landing ahead!

 AFP/Getty Images 

Now you might think that this is a pure good-news story, like if the Supreme Court strikes down ObamaCare in its entirety tomorrow. But no. It turns out that the lack of plane crashes is bad for airline safety. Here's the second sentence: "That's great news for aviation companies and their passengers--and a complication for rule makers trying to improve flight safety."

The second paragraph explains: "The benefits of aviation rules are calculated primarily on how many deaths they may prevent, so the safest decade in modern airline history is making it harder to justify the cost of new requirements."

Then comes one of the most wonderful quotes we've ever encountered, from William Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation: "If anyone wants to advance safety through regulation, it can't be done without further loss of life."

These guys are just dying for more regulation!

Well, we have an idea. The Transportation Security Administration sometimes conducts operations in which it probes its facilities and procedures for weaknesses by trying to smuggle contraband past its own agents. Why don't they set it up so that when they succeed, they actually sabotage a few planes? As long as they make it look like an accident, that would create the necessary conditions for generating data to evaluate new regulations. Bam, everyone's safer.

Does this sound like a crazy idea--so nuts even the government wouldn't do it? If you think so, we have two words for you: "fast" and "furious."

To read more of James Taranto's editorial work, visit 

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