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True Also for Airline Pilots?

Here’s a letter to the New York Times Book Review:

The tic to blame all of life’s ills on deregulation has become pathological.  For evidence, behold this passage from Marilyn Stasio’s review of Ginger Strand’s book (Killer on the Road) about murderers on America’s highways: “By Strand’s reckoning, the road killer was issued his official ticket to ride by the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which deregulated the trucking industry.  As unionized trucking outfits were squeezed off the road and loose regulations led to substandard conditions, a new demographic of the long-haul trucker emerged: ‘less educated, less stable, less tied to unions, less rooted in family life,’ and more likely to land on the suspect list in a homicide case'” (“Haunted Highways,” Sept. 9).

Behold also that Stasio reports Strand’s speculation as if it were reasonable.

Not only was Ted Bundy, the mass-murderer pictured along with Stasio’s review, not a trucker (Bundy picked up many of his victims in a VW Beetle) – and not only did the other murderers featured in Stasio’s review not drive a truck (Edmund Kemper worked for the California highway department and Charlie Starkweather worked in a warehouse) – no evidence is presented that truckers post-1980 are more likely to murder than were truckers pre-1980.  No evidence is even presented that truckers today are more likely than are, say, mailmen or accountants to commit murder.  At a minimum, such an extraordinary assertion about deregulation requires such empirical evidence.

Strand’s assertion, and Stasio’s acceptance of it, though, are evidence that many opponents of deregulation are guided less by evidence than by fashionable biases.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030