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Libertarian Answer Man: Are Airline Tickets Future Goods?

Dear Mr. Kinsella:

I’m a huge fan of your work and if it’s not too much trouble, I wanted to ask your input regarding the practice of airline overbooking and how this may relate to theft from a libertarian perspective. I recently watched libertarians on Twitter/X arguing about this issue so I wanted to get your take.
When you buy an airline ticket, and on the day of the flight the flight is overbooked, and you’re not allowed to board the plane ,and you don’t get your seat, is the airline commiting theft?
The argument is that when you buy an airplane ticket you’re buying a future good (a future plane seat) and so on the day of the flight you gain title to an airplane seat, and if the airline doesn’t give you the seat they’re stealing from you.

My response:
{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Jule Herbert June 17, 2024, 8:52 am

    Stephan: In your chapter, do you discuss Krell v. Hennry, the case about renting a viewing spot for the coronation parade for King Edward VII (which then was postponed or cancelled)? If if it no trouble, I, too, would like to see the draft. I am working on a real estate matter in which your reasoning might be of help.

    • Stephan Kinsella June 17, 2024, 12:52 pm

      I do not but would be interested in the legal issues regarding that case. I’ll email you the draft chapter.

    • Stephan Kinsella June 17, 2024, 3:46 pm

      BTW I found the case you mention: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krell_v_Henry . I don’t think the general approach to contract law that Rothbard, Evers and I advocate is aimed at forecasting how particular cases would be decided, or even at re-examining every past precedent or contract law doctrine as it emerged over the centuries. Rather it’s to set the institution of contracting on a sounder theoretical footing rooted in property rights. No doubt many existing contract law doctrines or precedents would be incompatible with how the TTTC would approach disputes and the development of doctrine, but it is of course premature to true to predict this, as it would be pointless and premature to have some libertarian scholars try to “correct” or “rewrite” the entirety of the common law or of the civil law/civil codes.

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