Unintended consequences

What happens when government policies and regulations intervene in the natural selection process of the business jungle?

One of the hot terms in the security industry is continuity. I read plenty about continuity of business. That’s a charged subject because continuity programs reach into every nook and cranny of a business. I also keep up as best I can with continuity of government. That’s a fairly shadowy subject that reaches back into the Cold War and further. But continuity of industry has yet to be discussed openly, and certainly not the continuity of the general aviation industry. Why?

General aviation is one of the few industries of the United States where exports continue to exceed imports. According to a 2011 U.S. Department of Commerce report, the United States general aviation aerospace industry produced some $9 billion in products. Despite world-wide economic challenges, U.S. general aviation products represented two-thirds of the world market in 2010. In our current highly competitive international business environment, that says a great deal. And it means that the general aviation industry is a net-plus for the U.S. economy. So if you agree that the general aviation industry is important as a national asset, wouldn’t it also make sense that those entrusted to formulate aviation security policies and regulations should exercise care worthy of a national bread winner?

The industry of general aviation has taken over a century to get where it is today. There are instances when federal agencies and institutions played important roles, such as the U.S. Postal Service and air mail going all the way back to 1911. However, most of general aviation — as an industry — grew from the trial and error processes of business enterprise and free-market competition. Through natural selection of good services and products versus bad, our general aviation industry constantly improves. But what happens when government policies and regulations intervene in the natural selection process of the business jungle?

Unintended consequences.

I’m a firm believer in the old saying, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” That said, I am also wary of paralysis by analysis. These two ideas are generally in the back of my mind whenever I examine a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or NPRM. The need to protect our general aviation community and its industry is great. Quite literally there are jobs, families, and communities on the line. When we take the time to study, reflect upon, and submit comments to proposed laws or regulations, we reduce the probabilities of unintended consequences by contributing our insights and wisdom.

An industry is a commercial ecosystem of businesses that contribute to and support the healthy function of the environment. And just like toxic waste dumped into an environment can have devastating effects on an ecosystem, the unintended consequences of inadequately considered regulation can have a similar toxic effect on an industry. The cleanup from toxic regulation can be just as costly and time consuming as any other man-made disaster because once a rule is on the books, it’s difficult to remove it. It’s better to keep it from being dumped in the first place.

We must be the guardians of our industry — its source of security for the long term. Reviewing, considering, and commenting on rules and laws that could impact our fully-functioning general aviation industry will help prevent unintended consequences and contribute to its continuity.

Fly safe, and be secure!

Dave Hook, an expert on general aviation security, is president of Planehook Aviation Services, LLC in San Antonio, Texas.





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  1. gbin says

    A thoughtful treatment of the subject.  It seems clear that whether the goal be the protection of human health and safety, the environment, commerce or something else worthwhile to society, the answer is reasonable regulation, not over- or under-regulation.  Of course, aiming for that reasonable middle ground takes the most work!

  2. says

    Hi David,

    Very good. Worth the read if nothing else but the insightful comparison between regulation and toxic waste. And just as some companies don’t intend to harm the environment, neither does government intend to kill industries. But it isn’t about what is intended. It’s about what actually happens.


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