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Leave American Airlines & USAirways alone

| Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Objecting to the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways, the Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the two airlines. The rationale? The feds say that the merger would impede competition and therefore should be disallowed.

The government's action only goes to show how government officials can warp economic principles so as to justify their control over private economic activity.

In an unhampered market economy — that is, one that is not hampered by government control or regulation — people have the moral right to do whatever they want with their own property and their own money. That's because it belongs to them. That's what private ownership is all about. The owner, as owner, is free to do whatever he wants with his own money and his own property, so long as he doesn't infringe in some direct way on the rights of others to do the same with their money and property.

Thus, people have the moral right to engage in any economic enterprise without a license or other form of government permission. To earn money, people will bring to market goods and services that other people want and are willing to pay for. No one is forced to buy or sell anything he doesn't want to.

People have the moral right to sell their goods and services at whatever price they wish. In an unhampered market economy, sellers compete for the business of consumers. Those sellers who are more successful in satisfying consumers are the ones who make more money.

Consumers, for their part, have the moral right to not buy sellers' goods and services. Since consumers are free to buy from whomever they want, they, not the producers, are ultimately the sovereigns — the ones who decide who stays in business and prospers and who doesn't.

Under principles of private property, unhampered markets and economic liberty, American Airlines and US Airways have the moral right to merge their businesses. They, not the government and not society, are the owners of their businesses. As owners, they have the right to combine their efforts.

The government says that this will result in less competition and higher prices. Even if that's true, so what? It's their business, isn't it? Why shouldn't they be free to charge whatever they want? Consumers have the moral right to not purchase airline tickets. Consumers have no moral right to force the airlines to give them a ticket at a price that consumers deem satisfactory.

Under the rationale of promoting competition, the government destroys the concepts of economic liberty, private property and free markets. In the process, it subjects economic activity to governmental control and regulation, an economic system that is no different, in principle, from that which exists in socialist Cuba.

The purpose of government is not to destroy freedom in the name of promoting competition. The purpose of government is to protect the exercise of fundamental rights, including the rights of private property and economic liberty.

Leave American Airlines and US Airways alone. Better yet, repeal the anachronistic Sherman Antitrust Act, which dates back to 1890.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. This commentary was adapted from his blog.

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