Taxes, Testosterone, and the Virtues of Overbooking [Reason Podcast]

Reason editors Brian Doherty, Nick Gillespie, and Katherine Mangu-Ward discuss the week's news.


The best way to solve the problem of too many people on an airplane is to "offer a price to get people to voluntarily give up a seat," says Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty. "But it only works really well if they keep raising the price until they get the volunteer."

On today's podcast, Doherty joins Nick Gillespie and Katherine Mangu-Ward to talk about why busting heads and not overbooking was to blame for last week's United Airlines crisis, the libertarian case for free trade and immigration, how to convince non-libertarians that one person's gain isn't necessarily another person's loss, Arkansas' legal fight to execute eight men, filing taxes, and the virtues of recreational testosterone.

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  1. The section on the United fiasco was very interesting, particularly Rand’s observation that corporations (capitalists? I can’t remember the exact quote) are often the worst defenders of free markets. I think this lays bare the tenuous, fragile balancing act that free markets must maintain. Fact is, no one likes competition – certainly not businesses. They’d much rather have a nice cozy market carved out for them by the government, even if it means dealing with some annoying regulation. No one likes being told “tough luck,” you don’t have a right to whatever/whatever.

    As my appreciation for the power of free(er) markets rises, so does my understanding of just how difficult the idea is to implement. Way too many voices clamoring for interference on their behalf.

    1. I didn’t watch the video, but it’s true. Heck, antitrust law protects industry incumbents. Licensing boards are always filled with industry insiders who benefit from restricting new entrants. Go to the Institute for Justice website to learn more if your search on Reason doesn’t yield enough results.

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  3. I went to the theater the other day. I bought a ticket for a specific seat. Every seat had been sold, but I was not asked to give up my seat. The theater was not overbooked. They didn’t sell two tickets for the same seat.

    There were a few no-shows, but the theater didn’t mind. Those no shows simply would have lost the money they paid for their seats.

    If that sounds normal, you don’t understand the airline business. Those folks want no-shows, so they can sell the same seat twice.

    Ever notice all those standby people waiting near the counter? They are waiting for no-shows so the airline can sell the same seat twice.

    The airlines love to pretend they need to overbook to make up for no-shows, but that is a bunch of malarky. So long as you, the flying public, are willing to put up with the cattle treatment, the airlines will keep overbooking.

    Enjoy the ride, sucker.

    1. “Ever notice all those standby people waiting near the counter? They are waiting for no-shows so the airline can sell the same seat twice.”

      Actually it’s airline employees, parents of airline employees, children of airline employees or buddies of airline employees hoping for no shows so they can ride for free or on a deeply, deeply discounted fare. No seats available, no ride. Standby only. My point being that the airline is not selling the same seat twice. How do I know this? Why I am a child of a retired airline employee who gets standby travel privileges. I’m one of those who pay. Except you don’t find me waiting near the counter, I’m resting comfortably in a seat waiting for my name to be called because standing near the counter doesn’t change the priority at all. The only exception to the above is revenue standbys, when someone misconnects etc. and is rebooked but there’s no room to confirm them initially. if seats open up they are cleared long before the nonrevenue standby mosh pit at departure time.

      You’re welcome, no charge. Thanks for playing anyway.

  4. Got it. The only people flying standby are employees, etc. Really? I must have been an airline employee last year, and didn’t even know it. Funny how that works.

    You’re welcome. There would be no charge, but since I somehow have become an airline employee, I now charge for everything.

    And as for that guy whose nose we broke and teeth knocked out, we expect him to pay for the damaged arm rest.

    1. Well, aren’t you special?!!….(;-P

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