Friday, August 06, 2010

Big government and small business

Phillip Greenspun is an electrical engineer and Internet guru.  He has had the same email address since 1976, and founded in 1993.   He now runs a flight school in the Boston area, in addition to teaching at MIT.  He talks about lobbying and big government:
 Boston Red Sox, along with other professional sports teams, lobbied Congress and the FAA for years trying to get them to forbid banner-towing airplanes flying over stadiums during games. They did this in hopes of preventing anyone from advertising to fans other than themselves, thus enhancing their billions of dollars in revenue. The FAA refused to hand over airspace to private owners, but Congress forced them to do so after 9/11, arguing that a 3 nautical mile ban around stadiums was necessary for security. Because this taking of public property was done under the guise of security, it was sufficient to ban only banner towers; all aircraft were banned except for those owned or operated on behalf of the sports team. The security value of the ban is negligible. A terrorist in a jet would fly through the 3 n.m. ring in about 1 minute. There would be no time to evacuate the stadium. It isn’t even clear that there are procedures in place for FAA controllers to inform stadium owners that someone has violated this security zone and therefore there would be notification to fans that it was time to duck.
(click the quote to read the whole article) Three miles is nowhere near enough for any real security--even a very slow airplane could cover that in a minute and a half--what could be done in a minute and a half?   However, three miles covers most of Boston, meaning his flight school has to know the schedule and not run their helicopter tours when there are games--even if they will not overfly the stadium, even if the game is not on the printed schedule.   He also talks about the costs of his flight school vs. the costs of a degree-granting college.  His school is about half the price--but because of federal subsidies, it is cheaper to a student to get the same training at a college or university--because you and I pay the difference.

But "How can you be against security" and "how can you be against education"?  Politicians need to be able to justify their votes, but they also need to be WILLING to justify their votes, and vote against ever-expanding government, even when it gives an opponent a sound bite to use against them.


  1. Philip Greenspun is a wicked smaht fellow.

  2. Great post. It's always interesting to see a little basic math and logic applied to some seemingly "simple" issues. The results are not always what one might expect.