One common thread about a larger government role is that it tends to lessen the opportunities for differentiation and competition by businesses. A federal requirement of a certain fuel economy standard, for example, reduces the likelihood of one auto company winning customers by selling cars that offer unusually high fuel economy. Federal imposition of safety features reduces the chance of a car company appealing to customers by boasting that their models offer certain safety features not found on their competitors. The same goes for a bill introduced by Rep. Daniel Lipinski to "standardize and clarify the dimensions of carry-on baggage and personal items on air carriers." (The bill provides an exception for musical instruments and for "outer garments, including a coat and a hat.") The New York Times endorses the bill in an editorial this morning.) Once the government sets a uniform standard for carry-on baggage, no airline is going to compete for passengers by saying, "On our airline, you can carry on as much luggage as you want, and our flight attendants won't hassle you for it, because we have the largest overhead bins." One can understand the desire to impose certain minimum standards for safety -- it's hard to imagine an airline having to advertise, say, that its pilots are more likely to be sober during take-off and landing than those on the other airlines. But if, say, the government required every car to be as safe as a Volvo, Volvo wouldn't be able to market its brand as a safety leader, and it probably wouldn't bother investing much in research and development of safety features.
Rules for Carry-On Luggage