Turn and turnabout

Neil Clark, talking about UK airports:

But their spectacular failure to adequately deal with recent snowfalls has surely exposed to all but the most fanatical free marketeers, the enormous price we pay for having our infrastructure in private ownership.

So we should nationalise \’em or summat\’, yes?

Even in capitalist America, airports are run as not-for-profit publicly owned entities. And America\’s airports, despite having to deal with far more extreme conditions, cope considerably better.


Snow started falling in the United States around New York City late on Sunday morning, by which time nearly 1,000 flights out of the region\’s three major airports had been cancelled in anticipation of the storm. More cancellations were expected.

Wonder if facts come into his analysis or whether the truth simply appears by revelation?

10 thoughts on “Turn and turnabout”

  1. Oh, god. I’m going to say something in support of Neil Clark. I feel filthy.

    I definitely feel the need to work up to this. So let’s start off with his obvious economics error.

    And America’s airports, despite having to deal with far more extreme conditions, cope considerably better.

    It is not ‘despite’, it is ‘because’. If it is a common problem, you either solve it or prepare to mitigate the symptoms. Anybody who has seen the speed Canadian snow ploughs drive at (with the occasional injuries or even deaths from high speed flying snow and ice) will understand.

    Okay – I’m better now. And it isn’t Neil being right (thankfully) it is Tim being a wee bit previous. Firstly, here is a better link. Secondly, the planes were grounded because of the winds – you stop or limit take-offs and landings in high wind conditions. And if these are accompanied by reduced visibility, you are even more careful. Nothing to do with their ability to clear the snow.

  2. One reason why UK airports don’t look into coping with extremes (other than the fact that they are extremes) is that the CAA is more interested in the airports being clean* than customer satisfaction. And I don’t mean by the public, airport customers are the airlines as they pay for the use of the airport. If the airport doesn’t do their job then the airlines can’t use their expensive planes. Airlines pay airport charges so that they can get their planes turned around very quickly.

    * There are other quality control factors but most are aimed at the public.

  3. You’d have thought a profit-0riented management would have invested in a few more
    snow ploughs rather than lose twice as much through a total shut-down of operations. But as more management brownie points would be had beforehand from shaving “non-essential”(because once in a blue moon) items like future snow clearance equipment,then snow bound airports were inevitable sooner or later.
    Neil Clark is right.Come an emergency and disconnected , undercapitalised (aka lean operating) private businesses come a cropper.
    Then you get whining for government intervention (“Send the Army in”) and not too much about the volunteer Big Society (“Come on lads and lasses bring a broom and shovel and clear the motorway!”)The Invisible Hand has a usual remained invisible.

    Tim adds: If we could just remind ourselves, please, that the invisible hand is only mentioned once in Wealth of Nations and that’s to remark on how merchants are led, as if by an invisible hand, to invest in the inland, not foreign, trade.

  4. “The Invisible Hand has a usual remained invisible.”

    Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. That’s what “invisible” means, you know.

  5. Except that the state’s hands are all over this. As Richard North points out

    What emerges though is not only that capability was inadequate but that the snow clearance plan was known to the government and had been approved by it. All this really does, therefore, is confirm the Booker thesis that the government had been so misled by the Met Office and its views on global warming that it did not believe that preparations for a severe winter were necessary.

  6. I’m amused by the idea that the state would be any better prepared for such a problem than the private sector is, considering all those people who had to sleep in their cars on the M6.

  7. Don’t forget that the airlines are in the cross hairs as major emitters of carbon, so they’re not very likely to want to rock the boat by suggesting extra investment in cold weather equipment/systems as it would seem to be going contrary to govt policy on ‘climate change’.

    The whole public sphere is riddled with politically correct AGW policies, and big PLC corporations ignore such stuff at their peril. When the State is controlling your industry via regulators you had better go with the flow if you want to remain in business.

  8. <moonbat>

    All problems suffered under capitalism will be solved under socialism. Government spending will be infinite and consequently all problems with competing objectives will be non-existent.

    Industrial and consumer activity will decline to save the planet but full employment will be achieved by employing all surplus labour to keep open the zil airports and zil roads


  9. It should also be said that many of the US airports I’ve been to have been horrible, soulless places, with all the glamour of a 1960’s UK bus station.

  10. @Tim
    Smith put up a storming argument for Land Value Tax but the ASI does n’t trumpet that much.Right-wingers use Smith to further their own free-market notions never mind what Smith originally said.

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