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The Antitrust Paradox Paradox


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I’m beginning to think that Robert Bork’s theories about how monopolies are awesome for consumers might not work all that well in practice:

Following shortly on the heels of Leggingsgate, United Airlines is under fire again for the disturbingly rough handling of a passenger on flight 3411, from O’Hare International Airport to Louisville on Sunday.

The flight was reportedly overbooked, and United wished to board four employees. After attempting to bribe people into giving up their seats, they had a computer randomly select people to be deboarded. While two agreed, one man who was selected along with his wife refused to give up his seat. The footage above, taken by Jayse D. Anspach, shows the man being dragged screaming from his seat by police. After falling forward, he appears to hit his face on an arm rest and looks stunned. The officers drag him down the aisle.

If our powerful economic actors actually believed in markets, the solution here was obvious: if it’s that important to you that employees get on this particular flight, there is a price that would have attracted two more volunteers, so meet it. (If meeting the price people are willing to take for getting bumped makes overbooking unprofitable…uh, good?) But of course, the support of economic elites for markets end exactly when they produce unfavorable results. (Cf. also “markets produce salaries for players that are “too high”? SALARY CAP!”, “people will not do job x at the offered wage = THERE ARE SOME JOBS AMERICANS JUST WON’T DO,” etc.)

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