King Rat (gkr) wrote,
King Rat

Choice redux. (Eco 200 assignment question)

(group) At the present time U.S. commercial airlines will carry an infant under two at no charge if the infant sits on the lap of a fare-paying adult, but will charge for an extra seat if the plane is full and the parents want the child placed in a child-restraint seat. If the government requires that all infants fly in child-restraint seats, the infant will have to have a ticket of its own to make sure that a seat is available. Should the government impost such a requirement? "There is no real choice about the matter," some have argued, "because a child's life is of far more value than the price of an airline ticket." Do you agree with that argument? What are the actual alternatives?

It certainly is a choice. Parents today make such choices all the time, even in situations where the alternatives are biased much more in favor of one action. Take using infant seats for automobiles. Despite overwhelming evidence that car seats save infant lives, many state government laws requiring the use of infant car seats, and social pressure from millions of parents who do use infant car seats, many still do not. These parents decide the cost of a car seat outweighs the cost of injuring their child. In addition to determining the likelihood that they will be in an accident, they also determine the risk of being caught be a police officer (and the subsequent fine). These may not all be explicitly considered, but they are considered.

In the case of infant seats in airlines, the costs are merely changed, and the number of actors in the equation have changed. In the case of automobiles, the actors are the parents, other drivers, and agents of the government. In planes, there are parents, the airlines, and agents of the government. Airlines will act as agents of the government, as the risk of large fines for not enforcing the infant seat requirement and the additional seat revenue make their choice a slam dunk. So the effort a parent would need to go through to avoid using an infant seat is much larger, given that flight attendants are likely to notice a child not in a separate seat. However, theoretically, parents wishing non-interference could band together and charter an airplane, or start their own, or make it worth existing airlines while to resist the government. Such actions are not likely however.

But tying back to my comparison to automobile driving does present parents with another alternative that could be taken should they feel the market influence by big actors such as the government and airlines is too onerous. Parents may travel by other methods other than flight: automobile, train, shp, or even bicycling. The possibility of not using infant seats in such modes of transport is a factor they could more easily consider.

I would be in favor of the government making such a requirement. I do not hold the view that market manipulation by the government is inherently evil. Such influence merely changes the costs in an economic model. It is a way for society to collectively change the valuation of intangible resources that are not easily valued easily. Individuals may affect government just as much as they participate in markets. The fact that they do not is simply evidence they do not see government as a market itself, when it could be viewed as such. Viewing it as such, I see it as a good way to influence parents to value the safety of their children more highly. My self interest is served by the value of the contributions these children would make to society (and me) in the future.


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