08.14.2023 0

Mice Lobby Against the Better Mousetrap

by Rick Manning

Standing up against a government which will crush the dreams of everyday Americans just to assert its power was the inspiration for my coming to Washington, D.C. many years ago.

The idea that an inventor could build a better mousetrap and the mice could hire a lobbying firm to get Congress or a regulator to ban it was abhorrent to this young man fresh on the heels of reading Atlas Shrugged.  Yet, that has unfortunately become the norm in an America which is barely recognizable.

A perfect example of this phenomena is contained within the version of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill passed by the House of Representatives.

The issue seems trivial, but it is a pure example of the federal government squashing someone, just because they can. The FAA requires tail identification numbers on aircraft at a cost of $10 with about a million separate combinations available.

One entrepreneur figured out that some combinations might be worth more than others. He invested thousands of dollars in purchasing the rights to combinations he believed would be more valuable than the $10 price he paid for them, leaving around half a million combinations with the FAA for those who just wanted a number.   He then set-up the apparatus to auction those numbers that he believed would have higher demand to those who were willing to pay for the vanity numbers.

It turned out that the entrepreneur was right, and those who own private jets were willing to pay to get what they considered a more prestigious or personal tail number. 

But the inevitable occurred, and the mice decided that the entrepreneur should not be allowed to exist and whined to their trade association and members of Congress.

Even though, the FAA still has an inventory of around half a million unused tail numbers up for grabs for $10 , the House of Representatives acted at the insistence of the mice that they must crush this inventor by making his business illegal.   

Of course, the private airplane owners could have simply refused to pay more than $10 for a tail number and destroyed the entrepreneurs business due to lack of interest.

But instead, we now have the House of Representatives on record in favor of squashing the innovator who saw a market, risked his money to see if his idea would work and then implemented a system which uses supply and demand market pricing to determine the true value of any given number. 

In a world which is on fire with the Biden administration assaulting freedom from every corner, this one, small current attempt by the ever-expanding administrative state and its congressional allies to crush a few people who are now competing in this market may seem unimportant. I don’t agree. 

It is worthwhile to fight for the little guy who faces destruction of his/her dreams and livelihood because the wealthy and powerful mice complained. 

When I was a much younger man, Texas Senator Phil Gramm used to refer to Dickie Flatt, a constituent who owned a local printing business as the archetype independent small businessman having to overcome the burdens of taxes and regulations. Gramm used to ask the question, “Is it worth taking it out of Dickie’s pocket” when considering whether a federal government program should be approved.

However, the Senate has the chance to just say no to the idea that Congress should shut down a legitimate business where no one is coerced or compelled to consume the product just because they can.

The Senate should apply this slightly altered Dickie Flatt standard to the FAA Tail Number issue.  Is it worth destroying the American dream for someone whose only fault is that he figured out a way to effectively organize and re-sell certain FAA tail numbers just because they can?

Anyone who claims to be a limited government conservative must answer no to this question, and if they don’t, their constituents can rightfully ask, am I next?

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