New York Times reporter Matt Richtel seems to have set off a pandemic news stories and commentaries with his profile of “otherwise respectable people” who use jamming devices to illegally obstruct the cell phone conversations of people nearby. Based on groundswell of support that appears to have formed for jammers, this looks like a problem worthy of a small amount of economic analysis.
As it happens, there are simple market-based solutions. The real problem is that the federal government has preempted them by disallowing market forces to work. One thing should be clear: jammers have appeared on the market because there is considerable consumer demand for them. That means there used to be a “market failure,” and this market failure will persists as long the federal government insists on sustaining it.