July 14, 2005

Fly noise

About a month late, NPR got around to covering the proposal to lift the FCC ban on mobile phone use on airplanes. Predictably, it quoted plenty of horrified passengers and flight attendents who were dreading being trapped on a flight with 100 obnoxious jerks yammering away. And I agree. That sounds like a total fucking nightmare.

But what does that have to do with the FCC? I'm hardly a libertarian. History has made pretty clear why you can't leave issues like child labor and worker safety up to the free markets. But asking the government to ban something because it annoys you? As Mike Langberg points out, "air travel is already highly annoying. I'd rather sit next to someone talking on a cell phone than a crying child -- even my own -- or someone who falls asleep while snoring and drooling on my shoulder." Yes, there are various safety concerns that need to be studied and addressed as well, but strictly from the standpoint of how annoying phones are, well, there is no Constitutional right to freedom from being pissed off.

But -- and here's where I part company with Langberg (who actually wants in-flight phone use) and make common cause with the free marketeers -- the outcry against lifting the ban also makes clear why it's OK if the ban is listed: assuming people aren't lying about not wanting phones on flights, airlines will cater to them by voluntarily banning phone use. There's nothing to stop that, and United has already says it will.

Just don't wire the New York Subways for cell phones. I have my limits.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


By gum, we are so on the same page. (Except I was on that page back in December, nyahh nyahh nyahh.)

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