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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of price regulation and antitrust policy
  • Explain regulatory capture and its significance

Governments at all levels across the United States have regulated prices in a wide range of industries. In some cases, like water and electricity that have natural monopoly characteristics, there is some room in economic theory for such regulation. But once politicians are given a basis to intervene in markets and to choose prices and quantities, it is hard to know where to stop.

Doubts about regulation of prices and quantities

Beginning in the 1970s, it became clear to policymakers of all political leanings that the existing price regulation was not working well. The United States carried out a great policy experiment—the deregulation    discussed in Monopoly —removing government controls over prices and quantities produced in airlines, railroads, trucking, intercity bus travel, natural gas, and bank interest rates. The Clear it Up discusses the outcome of deregulation in one industry in particular—airlines.

What are the results of airline deregulation?

Why did the pendulum swing in favor of deregulation? Consider the airline industry. In the early days of air travel, no airline could make a profit just by flying passengers. Airlines needed something else to carry and the Postal Service provided that something with airmail. And so the first U.S. government regulation of the airline industry happened through the Postal Service, when in 1926 the Postmaster General began giving airlines permission to fly certain routes based on the needs of mail delivery—and the airlines took some passengers along for the ride. In 1934, the Postmaster General was charged by the antitrust authorities with colluding with the major airlines of that day to monopolize the nation’s airways. In 1938, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) was created to regulate airfares and routes instead. For 40 years, from 1938 to 1978, the CAB approved all fares, controlled all entry and exit, and specified which airlines could fly which routes. There was zero entry of new airlines on the main routes across the country for 40 years, because the CAB did not think it was necessary.

In 1978, the Airline Deregulation Act took the government out of the business of determining airfares and schedules. The new law shook up the industry. Famous old airlines like Pan American, Eastern, and Braniff went bankrupt and disappeared. Some new airlines like People Express were created—and then vanished.

The greater competition from deregulation reduced airfares by about one-third over the next two decades, saving consumers billions of dollars a year. The average flight used to take off with just half its seats full; now it is two-thirds full, which is far more efficient. Airlines have also developed hub-and-spoke systems, where planes all fly into a central hub city at a certain time and then depart. As a result, one can fly between any of the spoke cities with just one connection—and there is greater service to more cities than before deregulation. With lower fares and more service, the number of air passengers doubled from the late 1970s to the start of the 2000s—an increase that, in turn, doubled the number of jobs in the airline industry. Meanwhile, with the watchful oversight of government safety inspectors, commercial air travel has continued to get safer over time.

The U.S. airline industry is far from perfect. For example, a string of mergers in recent years has raised concerns over how competition might be compromised.

Questions & Answers

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Hope Reply
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Obeng Reply
What is Economic
Governor Reply
economic
Nwosu
Economics is the social science that deals with the unlimited human wants in the face of scarce (limited in supply) resources.
Azka
what is market
Gift Reply
marker is the interaction of buying and selling
David
market refers to the interaction of the processes of buying and selling of commodities between the buyer and the seller.
stephen
market is a place where two parties gather to facilitate exchange of goods and services.
Yhaar
what are some good sources of information to find trends in various Industries
James
how do on know that marketing is going on
Mutia
what is consumption
Raj
Using revenue
Prince
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Prince
What are the marmet function
Odirile Reply
price elasticity of demand is the degree of responsiveness of a quantity demanded to the change in price of the commodity in question.
Gladys Reply
What does elasticity mean
Prince
Elasticity means change in demand with the change in price. It is elastic if the demand changes with the price change whereas it is inelastic if the demand is not affected due to change in price
Devesh
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Olatunde
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KP
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Thelma Reply
it helps to make the correct choice
Gladys
it helps firm to produce products that will bring more profit
Gladys
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londiwe Reply
needs are things that we basically can't live without wants are just luxury things
Thelma
needs are things without them we can't live but want are things without we can live
KP
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KP
it's a process in which we give or receiving methodical instructions
Thelma
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Amex
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taiwo Reply
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Aarif Reply
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Princess Reply
When you make a Scedule of the demand you made
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Prema Reply
What is macroeconomics
Kauna Reply
It's one of the two branches of Economics that deal with the aggregate economy.
Mayen
it's about inflation, occupation, gdp and so on
alberto
What is differences between Microeconomics and Macroeconomic?
Bethrand
microeconomics focuses on the action of individual agents in the economy such as businesses, workers and household. while macroeconomics looks at the economy as a whole. it focuses on broad issues in the economy such as government deficit, economy growth, levels of exports and imports, and
Thelma
inflationary increase in prices
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a price floor of 24 imposed
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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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