For many years now the slogan for United Airlines has been “Fly the Friendly Skies of United“.  Two incidences recently have belied the United Airlines message.  The first on March 26th dealt with the refusal of a ticket agent to allow two girls wearing leggings from boarding a flight because they were “dressed inappropriately“ by United Airlines standards. Had these teens been nude there might have been a point to their being barred, however, leggings today are deemed appropriate dress by an overwhelming majority of the country.  That being the case I wonder where in hell United Airlines arrogates to itself the right to impose a “dress code“?

More disturbing and far more immediate was the bloody spectacle of a passenger being forcibly removed from a plane due to “overbooking“.  The phone video of this incident has been shown worldwide and United’s stock value has fallen to the tune of a billion dollars. So widespread is people’s curiosity about this that at least 480 million Chinese have viewed the video on the Chines version of Twitter.  Much of the discussion about this incident has been so highly critical of the airline’s that its’  “CEO has had to backtrack abjectly“ from his original strong defense of the appropriateness of the removal.  From my perspective there are two interrelated points about this incident that I think has been underplayed in all the commentary and these points are directly interrelated.

The firs point is that this was not a case of overbooking“.

The problem was caused by the fact that United had four employees that they needed to get to Louisville the next day on company business and so the decision was made to remove four passengers to get them aboard this flight.  That was not Overbooking“,  it was the arrogance of a powerful company that put its’ corporate interest above those of the passengers they serve. I’m certain that the airline could have found alternate transportation for these employees that would not have led to this forcible ejection.

Which leads me to my second point and that is we see yet again another failure of the Conservative philosophy of “deregulation“ of businesses to make service more efficient.

“Airline deregulation is the process of removing government-imposed entry and price restrictions on airlines affecting, in particular, the carriers permitted to serve specific routes. In the United States, the term usually applies to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.“  Airline deregulation – Wikipedia
At the time of the passage of this Deregulation Act,  the public was promised lower prices through more competition, leading to better service and more efficiency. What we got instead was less competition via corporate mergers, higher prices and less efficiency of operation.  This is the “Big Lie“ used time and again by conservatives to achieve their aim of making their corporate sponsors happy by allowing these companies to earn more by rigging markets and monopolization.
Even Adam Smith, the influential Scottish Philosopher who the idea of “free-market“ competition by hypothesizing an “invisible hand” guiding it:
“Nevertheless, was wary of businessmen and warned of their “conspiracy against the public or in some other contrivance to raise prices”.[83] Again and again, Smith warned of the collusive nature of business interests, which may form cabals or monopolies, fixing the highest price “which can be squeezed out of the buyers”.[84] Smith also warned that a business-dominated political system would allow a conspiracy of businesses and industry against consumers, with the former scheming to influence politics and legislation. Smith states that the interest of manufacturers and merchants “…in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public.“  Here.
Conservatism today, is controlled by the needs and blandishments of the One Percent, whose financial interests pretty much control us, has relied on the principles Adam Smith propounded, which have been compounded and confounded by generations of fawning economists in their employ of these oligarchs.  Curious isn’t  that all of these lackeys of wealth have forgotten Adam Smith’s cautioning caveats about the dangers of free enterprise left unbounded by governmental oversight.  The “Friendly Skies of United“ aren’t So friendly because with the removal of major governmental oversight and with the growing monopolization of their industry they have no need to consider their passengers.  Look around at the effects this conservative mantra of deregulation has made for our lives and you see that this incident is merely the shape of things to come.

 

 

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