Families’ private flights unleash a storm of envy


Hundreds of commenters on the New York Times website had a tantrum over a story this week about families that charter private jets to send their children to summer camp in the Northeast U.S.

These enraged readers see inequity (much like my children, who compare the number of kisses they get from me at bedtime, or the number of strawberries they get at dinner, or, well, you get the idea). It’s not fair!

You know what I see when I read this story? I see jobs for pilots and mechanics and support personnel who work for those charter jet companies. I see revenue for rural airports. I see a chance for a time-pressed family (whether I agree with the parents’ priorities or not) to travel together without the stress of driving or the hassle of commercial flights.

And, wow, do I see lots of envy. One of the commenters even admitted that if he had the money, he’d do the same thing. Here in Utah, most families don’t have $10,000 for summer camp inMaine, let alone the money for a private jet to get the kids there. But even if they do – as long as those funds are not ill-gotten – then so what? It’s their choice.

Speaking of choice, it’s curious how popular culture seems to give a pass to all sorts of “lifestyle choices,” but if you make personal financial decisions that others find wasteful, or unworthy, or just plain tacky – watch out for the backlash.

[pullquote]In a free, prosperous society there will always be some financial inequality.[/pullquote] In a free, prosperous society there will always be some financial inequality. And it’s wise to keep in mind that after reading this snapshot of envy, we have no idea how much these families give to charity. They may be helping their communities in ways that go far beyond the taxes they pay.

Certainly, if these well-to-do parents can afford a private jet to take their children to camp, they could afford to pay more taxes. And if they were taxed heavily enough that they decided they couldn’t afford the private flight, then it would cost the pilots and mechanics and others that income, and potentially their jobs, since this would not be the only family that would no longer be chartering private flights.

And what would we get in return for “spread[ing] the wealth around,” as President Obama would say? Most of the money that would be producing income and jobs for others would instead be lost to the costs of unnecessary bureaucracy and waste, with a fraction of it actually going to “stimulate” the economy.

Those who pay big bucks for these flights are helping America’s economy. Let’s save the outrage for tax cheats, terrorists and other criminals.