Government Imperative to Regulate

This time in the commercial space industry. There is a bill slowly wending its way through the House that would limit—or not—regulation of the nascent commercial space industry. This is a bill that would

…extend and update federal protection for commercial launches from some potential liability involving property damage or personal injuries and fatalities on the ground. The legislation [also would bar] the Federal Aviation Administration from closely regulating fledgling space-tourism ventures for up to 10 more years….

There’s a hint about the wrong mindset there. The hint is clarified by the bill’s supporters’ attitude. They [emphasis added]

want to extend until the end of 2025 a so-called “learning period” during which companies and regulators are supposed to analyze operational data and consider the best way to create a regulatory structure.

Based on what theory do they think the commercial space industry must, of necessity, be regulated? What, even, is their limiting principle on government regulation?

The answers to these questions are, respectively, none and none. There is no need to regulate something just because someone wants to do it. Americans are not so stupid that our every action needs a rule to permit or prohibit it or to guide it. The lack of limiting principle is demonstrated empirically by the steady growth (and explosive recently, as that growth has reached the sharp bend in a typical growth J-curve) in the size of our government and the amount of regulation it’s committing on us.

What these guys don’t get is that a free market is a very fine regulator, and one that is both fast acting and flexible in all of its controls. A space company shows itself too dangerous? It goes out of business for lack of customers. It has no customer service worthy of the name? It goes out of business for lack of customers. Customers are reluctant to fly from concerns about recompense? Sounds like a market niche for insurers. Some other problem or reluctance? The market will fill the void, and quickly; it’s what competition does.

All government regulation does is protect the regulated companies from that competition, a function which achieves far more efficient regulation far more efficiently and without need of taxpayer-paid bureaucrats adding to the cost of the service.

The Congressional mindset is another argument for limited government. If it’s small enough, it can better be forced to keep its hands to itself.

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