The Myth of Government Air Control

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Uh
oh…Here we go again. Civil government is once more directly implicated
in the deaths of innocent civilian folks. Not that anyone has noticed.
Blame is being placed everywhere except where it properly belongs.
This time it isn't government war time hubris summarily dismissed
as "collateral damage." Nor does it involve peace time
casualties like the atrocities in the United States that occurred
at Waco and Ruby Ridge. No, it isn't anything the media considers
mundane (civilian lives lost in war) or which they consider sensational
(military tanks used against American citizens domestically). The
media in both instances does not necessarily consider these brutal
actions immoral, much to their everlasting shame.

It
occurred in an ostensibly private market activity which has become
near and dear to our hearts over the last several months. It is
an activity many of us find indispensable. It is something I myself
have refused to participate in since the tragic events on that infamous
day in New York on September 11 last year. Sure, you know what I'm
talking about — traveling on commercial airlines.

It
wasn't a band of private terrorists or radical Islamic warriors
responsible for the death of 71 people, including 52 Russian schoolchildren
(according to one report, 45 in another) in the tragic July 1st
collision over the skies of southern Germany of a DHL cargo plane
and a civilian airliner. In an ironic and sad sort of way, that
is too bad, because the people who should be blamed are not being
blamed, at least not in a precise and focused way. Instead the usual
posturing is going on amongst Russian, Swiss and German officials
as to who is really at fault.

The
Russian government warned the Swiss President not to attend the
memorial service for the victims because they could not guarantee
his safety. Many Russians, at least according to the various news
reports, are blaming Switzerland (presumably they mean the Swiss
bureaucrats) for the crash and are enraged at attempts by Swiss
"air traffic authorities" to initially blame the Russian
pilot. Apparently it was an order by an unnamed Swiss "air
traffic controller" to the pilot of the Russian aircraft that
caused the crash. The "aerocrat" told the pilot to descend
when the collision avoidance system aboard the aircraft indicated
the exact opposite.

In
fact the computers on both planes (TCAS) had instructed the pilots
to take emergency maneuvers. The Russian pilot, apparently after
some hesitation, overrode his computer because of the air traffic
command. Thus others are blaming the "air traffic controller"
directly who has since been put on extended administrative leave.
There is probably enough blame to go around for all these folks,
but in my opinion, it does not address the root of the problem.

It
would appear to me that many, including those who ought to know
better, are missing the obvious. Such a scenario is not unusual
in situations of this nature. The government gets a pass on behavior
which if engaged in by private citizens would lead to very severe
consequences. Given the usual blinders that most people wear when
it comes to the action(s) of government(s), let us see if we can't
sort out who is actually to blame for this most recent air tragedy.
I think it is time we called a spade a spade, at least when it comes
to the once friendly skies.

The
root of the problem lies in the bureaucratization of an industry
that should be imminently private, i.e. the control and protection
of your own private flying machine. I know we are talking airplanes
but someone owns those planes and has a vested interested in protecting
the planes and the lives of those who use them. What you say? What
does private ownership of airplanes and the space they travel in
have to do with the lost lives of 71 people, two thirds who will
never see adulthood? Oh, just about everything.

One
of the great myths of our day is a phrase we take for granted —
air traffic control. More specifically, federalized air traffic
control, you know…like in the FAA, our not so beloved Federal Aviation
Administration. At the risk of sounding silly, let me suggest a
quaint little notion which is intended to disabuse us of such an
idea – there is no such thing as federal control of the air –
(private claims of airspace ownership is another topic), rather
there is only private control of your particular piece of private
property as it hurtles through space at breakneck speed. Should
you lose control of such property, you will find, on a very practical
level, such a concept as federal air traffic control is a serious
and often tragic misnomer.

Here
is a lesson the Russian pilot either did not know or had forgotten
(I vote for the latter); he was the captain of his airborne ship
and was ultimately responsible for the passengers and crew under
his charge. Clearly he was no Captain Kirk or Jean Luc Picard, who,
in the fictional world of Star Trek, were always ready at a moment's
notice to jettison their careers and disobey an order if it meant
preserving and protecting the lives of those who had been entrusted
to them as well as protecting the ship itself.

And
therein lays the immediate problem and the explanation of the ultimate
cause of the tragedy. We need not only abolish the FAA, but we should
abolish all worldwide "air traffic authorities." These
"air authorities" should be replaced by those who have
a vested interest (as opposed to a so called general moral interest)
in maintaining their property and the lives of those who are using
it.

The
Swiss traffic controller had no such vesting (nor did Skyguide,
the Swiss body charged with regulating the airspace — turns out
their collision alarm system was shut down at the time of the crash
for maintenance), the Russian pilot forgot about his (since he answered
first to the bureaucrat and not Bashkirian Airlines, at least while
flying), and as a result 71 people are dead and a nation is reacting
in understandable anger.

Is
this to say such an accident could not have happened under a private
regime of flight control? Of course not! Human error is part and
parcel of life. Yet in every instance where flight control is private
the results are dramatically improved. Market sanctions (both positive
and negative) insure that errors of this scale are less likely to
happen simply because people have a vested interest in ensuring
that they don't. What do you think the advice from Bashkirian Airlines
(his employer) would have been had the pilot radioed in and said
his collision avoidance instruments told him not to descend,
even though the "aerocrat" told him he should? This isn't
rocket science. Short of demonstrable equipment malfunction the
head honcho's at Bashkirian (the statements of Russian aviation
officials notwithstanding) would have seen lawsuits in their dreams
and acted accordingly. Their response would have been the exact
opposite of the lyrics from an old disco song, Burn Baby Burn! Their
mantra would have been, Rise Baby Rise!

As
the situation currently stands, who should the victim's survivors
hold accountable, the Swiss government? Even if sued the Swiss government
will use taxpayer's money to satisfy the potential legal judgment.
Governments are non productive. They don't produce anything of value
and they are not subject to the restraints of the market. By the
way, neither are their judgments subjected to market restraint,
which is what the Swiss air traffic decision was — a very bad judgment.
In terms of money, they can only steal from Peter in order to pay
Paul.

How
about holding Skyguide, the Swiss traffic control body, accountable
for this horrible loss of life? Hardly, since they too are a part
of the government bureaucracy. Despite conventional wisdom, government
doesn't have deep pockets, only the ability to gain access to our
pockets by force (taxation) or subterfuge (inflation) and give the
fruit of our labor to someone else.

Perhaps
the controller himself should be held accountable for his negligent
behavior. He should be but he most likely will not face any real
sanctions. He has been put on administrative leave. His air traffic
career might be ruined but it certainly beats facing negligent murder
charges.

There
is no real, satisfying and legitimate redress for government blunders.
Only in the private market can people expect a redress of
their grievances for harm done. As it stands the Russian survivors
are left with a general angst and a misplaced hatred of the Swiss
President who personally had nothing to do with the tragedy.

Government
usurpation of private responsibilities always leads to the abdication
of all responsibilities, even by those who should know better. Anyone
familiar with flying understands the reason you use instruments
is so that you are not at the whims of your senses, which can be
very misleading during flight.

I
remember the dramatic rendition that Rush Limbaugh once gave of
what JFK Jr. possibly went through as he, with his wife, plummeted
to his death. Mr. Limbaugh was reading a document that is given
to all new pilots about the short time they have to live when they
don't depend on their instruments and instead depend on their senses
in bad weather. It (the document) reminds pilots of the necessity
of not relying on their instincts because, to their detriment, they
will totally contradict the instrument readings. In all likelihood,
JFK Jr. didn't know he was headed in the wrong direction until a
scant few seconds before hitting the water.

So
the obvious question, at least to me, is this: where was the vigilance
of the Russian pilot? Short of a known equipment malfunction, why
didn't he ignore the controller's command when clearly his collision
avoidance equipment was telling him to do the exact opposite of
what the bureaucrat was ordering? Why did he ignore his own computers,
which were right in front of him, for someone else's computers many
miles away? Why didn't he simply rely on his flight training as
opposed to the dictates of a government bureaucrat?

Not
surprisingly Russian aviation officials have said the pilot correctly
gave precedence to the control tower. Western aviation experts disagree
and note that pilots are trained to give precedence to cockpit warnings.
Ideology does matter, even in the cockpit, but that is a topic for
another time (after all, would you want a fatalist guiding your
plane if the controls went out or someone who thought life was sacred
and worth fighting for at all costs?). Frankly, I don't believe
these Russian "officials." I think they are trying to
cover their rather exposed backsides.

I
submit that the captain's career-long reliance on government bureaucracy
as a Russian citizen and pilot had stripped him of the ability
to make a sound decision in a crisis situation. This is what government
bureaucracies always do, transforming otherwise capable people into
a mutated species best described as "sheeple."

Yes,
we can justifiably blame the Swiss government for their (inadequate)
regulation of the air as embodied by their official representative,
Skyguide. We can also with some justification blame the air traffic
controller who, had he been employed in the private market, would
perhaps be charged with negligent homicide (or a nasty civil suit)
at best and murder at worst.

The
Russian pilot shares much of the blame as well (for the Swiss to
blame him however is like the pot calling the kettle black, or more
to the point, Congress referring to corporate CEO's as crooks).
His willingness to bow to government dictates, in the face of his
own training, cost him his life and that of 70 others. He most assuredly
is the proximate cause of this whole fiasco. It would not surprise
me to see the carrier become the subject of several lawsuits once
the families get over their initial grief and realize the best chance
for financial remuneration for their losses will be suing Bashkirian
Airlines.

But
until we, as subjects of Leviathan around the world, are
willing to topple these systems that our own votes and political
allegiances allow to stay in place, we will never find satisfaction
in this life for the untold tragedies that these bureaucracies continue
to heap upon our lives. Until we realize that politics and its various
manifestations at all levels is not the hope of mankind we will
be doomed to witness these avoidable disasters.

Dr.
Gary North, on numerous occasions in his body of writings, speaking
to the priority we should assign to the various spheres of life,
ranks politics fourth (self government, church government
and family government preceding civil government). I have a different
notion, more in keeping with the anarchist tradition I see modeled
in the Old Testament, politics not at all.

While
we are certainly not morally culpable for the actual events, nevertheless,
the lack of satisfaction and unresolved anger as a result…for such
we have only ourselves to blame, by our continual propping up of
these illegitimate structures in the first place.

Let
us grieve with the survivors, but let us also remember that federal
control anywhere and everywhere, even in the air, must be resisted.

July
22, 2002

Michael
Miles [send him mail]
writes from Seattle, WA.

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