Why the Government should not Ground 737 MAX Planes

737 MAX
Boeing 737-MAX8-200 K66201

The Federal Aviation Administration, at the behest of President Trump, has grounded Boeing 737 MAX airplanes because of two accidents over the last five months involving such planes. There is not yet evidence to suggest the crashes are related to one another or a problem with the plane but the public perception is that there is such a correlation. My question today is if the government should mandate airlines stop flying the planes?

Most of Europe, China, Canada, Panama and some other countries had already mandated various airlines stop flying the planes while other nations largely left the decision up to the companies. The first question you might ask yourself is how the United States federal government has the power to dictate to a private company which planes to fly. I discussed much of their reasoning in a blog back in May of 2017. I won’t go into details but if you want to learn more please peruse that article.

Certainly, people are afraid. Southwest Airline is the largest user of the 737 MAX planes with 34 of them and they are offering customers a chance to change flights to a different plane free of charge. This is an example of capitalism, without government interference, in action. If enough people refuse to fly on the 737 MAX planes it is fairly obvious that Southwest and other airlines would stop using them until some sort of safety check was in place.

It is clear the 737 MAX planes have flown many times without incident since they began service in May of 2017. However, two accidents within half a year does bring into question the plane’s general safety. This brings us to the topic at hand. It is better for the government to mandate the stoppage or to let each airline make the decision independently of oversight?

No one was calling for the plane to be grounded before the second accident so neither of those tragedies would have been prevented by a grounding. After the second accident the airlines were largely offering people a chance to fly on different planes so the net result of the grounding is relatively small and I suspect if enough people changed flights the airlines would have grounded the planes on their own. The practical difference is fairly small although I’m sure that would come as no comfort to the families of victims if there is a third crash.

I absolutely prefer letting each airline make their own decision about the 737 MAX. The reason is there is potential for government malfeasance. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that politicians, all the way up to and including the president, might have a grudge against one company or another and use this power to influence profits. This is Crony Capitalism at its worst.

I recognize this is a special circumstance to some degree but I’m largely against the government interfering in business decisions and that goes for this situation as well. I don’t think this grounding makes anyone safer and it further cements the idea that government has and should use this sort of power. That is a danger in itself.

Tom Liberman

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