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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14617/god-bless-the-tsa/

God Bless the TSA!

November 12, 2010 by

Here’s my Division of Labour co-blogger (and fellow Wash U economics PhD) Michael Munger doing his usual kvetching about this or that pointless and expensive invasion of privacy. As there have now been naked pictures of me taken at several airports (San Francisco, most recently), all I can say to poor Mike is that these encroachments on and invasions of our basic liberties are the price we pay for freedom.

There are ways around this, though, at least for short trips. I’ve made three trips to St. Louis in the last month or so, and on two of these trips I took Greyhound. Once you factor in waiting time at the airport, the interminably long time it takes to de-plane and get luggage, and all of the other hassles of air travel, it didn’t take that much longer to take the bus. What’s more, the bus ticket only cost a little bit more than the gas I would have burned driving round-trip (and a fraction of what I would have paid for a plane ticket), it was much more comfortable than a plane, and I could either work or sleep over the course of the trip. Every seat had at least exit-row leg room, and the bus from Memphis to St. Louis had wifi. It was also nice to be able to use my phone or computer without having to worry about when it was safe to use portable electronic devices.

One of the best parts is that I didn’t have to deal with the TSA or any TSA-related delays. Indeed, on my way home from Saint Louis last Saturday, I got to the bus station about ten minutes or so before the bus was scheduled to leave. I had to sprint back and forth between the bus and the ticket counter so I could get a claim check for my luggage, but I didn’t miss my bus. If you ever show up at an airport less than an hour before your flight departs, making your flight is almost certainly going to be close (fortunately, though, a lot of airlines are releasing smartphone apps that allow you to check in and actually display your boarding pass on the phone itself).

Especially as the TSA is now taking nude pictures of people who want to try to board planes, I expect to see vigorous and healthy competition for short-haul travel from companies like Greyhound and Megabus. Yes, I know that the market is loaded with distortions in the form of highway subsidies, government air traffic control, and the like, but sat the margin it’s at least nice to know we have options.

Update: Will Wilkinson joins the chorus of TSA naysayers. In addition to competition from ground transportation, I expect to see people shift toward videoconferencing and the like rather than air travel. Will makes an important point about probabilities. You’re more likely to die from a lightning strike than to die from a terrorist attack (but, I wonder, are these conditional probabilities?). You’re also almost certainly far more likely to die driving to and from the airport than you are to die in a terrorist attack. Here’s an interesting EconTalk podcast in which Richard McKenzie entertains an economic truth but a political heresy: substitution toward driving in the aftermath of 9/11 has probably led to more deaths than the terrorist attacks themselves. If the new Congress is looking to eliminate resource-wasting, job-killing, American-imperiling government enterprises, it should start with the TSA. HT: Robert Lawson for the link to Will’s post.

{ 18 comments }

Luther November 12, 2010 at 10:30 am

You bent my mind a bit with that one, Art. But you’re right. The race to the bottom continues… as we impose more inefficiencies on our markets, our standard of living falls. Soon we’ll ban the wheel to protect puppies from being rolled over.

Steve Hogan November 12, 2010 at 11:03 am

One thing is certain: the porno scanners and the feel-ups at the airport have nothing to do with security and everything to do with control and power over others.

Think about it. If security were the issue, and the government actually believed these policies were needed, why do we not scan and grope wherever people congregate? If the terrorists take down a plane, a couple hundred people meet their maker. Blow up a bus station, train terminal, rock concert, or sporting event and thousands die. Am I missing something?

Come on, government do-gooders. If you’re going to keep us safe, you need to feel us up at every opportunity. Think of all the government jobs you’d create! The oglers, pedophiles, and perverts deserve to make a living too.

loki November 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm

if you wanted to destroy an industry like air travel, i can’t think of a better one than this. you know, they don’t force you through any checks at all if you are coming in and look south american, asian or african, but they treat you the same as whitey in domestic flights if you want to leave.

the idea that these globalists want to destroy american should not be the slightest bit outrageous a statement in light of the many ways in which it has been done, heavily regulating all forms of business all over the country, encouraging american-incorporated companies to move their labour force where they don’t have to pay the illegal IRS income tax – hell that’s what the IRS was invented for… and price controls and subsidies on commodities and wage controls…

Rick November 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I saw a poll yesterday – I think on the MSNBC website – asking people about their “security preference”. What would you prefer? (1) a full body scan (2) a pat down (3) neither – I won’t fly.

The last I looked the results were nearly split between full body scan and neither (this leading by a small margin), and with a pat down getting a small vote total.

The comments were interesting, but predictable. The “neither” comments were calling it a waste, ineffective, an invasion of privacy, etc… all well and good in my opinion.

The “full body scan” supporters were saying things like, “the price we pay for ‘security’”, “what if you were on that plane?”, “what’s wrong with you guys?”, etc.

Interestingly, the “pat down” supporter comments seemed a weak attempt at being moderate. Comments like, “hey, I don’t like the scan… but I want to fly… so I don’t mind the pat down, it seems a fair compromise.”

I wonder what the demographic or political affiliations are here. It wouldn’t surprise if conservative republicans generally supported the full body scans.

It always amazes me how some who are the first to yell “communist!” or “socialist!” whenever a democrat proposes spending money on anything are the first to get in line for socialized security probing and radiation scans at airports. I also wonder how often many of these people fly.

J. Murray November 12, 2010 at 5:27 pm

TSA – Because the Coke-Cola you want to bring in from outside the airport is going to bring down the plane but the Coke-Cola you buy from the overpriced vendors past the checkpoint are perfectly OK. The TSA’s primary purpose is apparently to force patronage of the expensive novelty shops on the other side of the scanners.

NinaV November 18, 2010 at 1:14 pm

This has been my thought too. Airport malls to service a captive clientele have become cash cows for the port authorities that operate the airports around the country. I don’t see them giving up that rich revenue flow.

Ohhh Henry November 12, 2010 at 10:38 pm

It’s easy to see where this will lead. Coming soon to bus stations and highway roadblocks everywhere across America: voyeur scanners and groping thugs. A suitably scary highway “terrist” incident is easy to arrange … you only need a police provocateur and a couple of half-retarded stooges recruited from the local mosque.

I would say there is a pretty good chance that this is already in the works. Roadblocks will start a vicious circle of tyranny. More roadblocks, more contraband and illegals found, leading to calls for more roadblocks, wrecking the economy further, causing more people to become outlaws and black marketeers, resulting in more arrests at roadblocks, and so on.

Bill Smith November 14, 2010 at 1:36 pm

You make a valid point for bus travel on short trips. You’d think the bus companies and Amtrak would do a better job of marketing the issue. I havn’t seen a commercial for Greyhound in years. Remember “Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us”. Save time save money no embarrasing body scans seems like a no brainer. Greyhound ought to get on board or they’re gonna miss the bus.

LoboSolo November 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

Art, I took the train from Memphis to Chicago for a conference for the same reason. The train was on time and a great ride!

Jim H. November 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I think adding technology is just damaging the travel business. These security measures are documented by the TSA, on the Internet and periodicals. If a terrorist wants to bypass them, then they can figure it out. If a terrorist reaches the airport security line, then it is too late and all that is going to stop an tragedy is passenger attentiveness and luck. Stop hiring computers and start training a security force with psychological and observational skills to pick out those passengers seemingly under duress. I imagine there are telltale signs – sweating, nervousness, agitation – that come with carrying a bomb and the intent to blow one self up? Maybe like bungie-jumping without the expectation of survival.

nate-m November 15, 2010 at 1:38 pm

There is ‘security’ and there are ‘security theater’.

For the TSA they have two top, and often conflicting, priorities (besides their private agendas and money/power scheming.:
1) Provide for the real security of the airport.
2) make people feel safe about flying.

The screenings are theater. Some of the stuff they do is actually needed, but the majority of it is completely theater. It’s done out in the open and to everybody so that when they get into the airport they help people feel safe.

The real security mechanisms are as such:
1) Random screenings of individuals
2) X-raying baggage and random searches.
3) observation of behavior
4) investigations of organizations outside of the airport with documentation provided to airport security personal on who and what to look out for.

That’s the stuff that matters. Terrorist plots are complex and risky. They need to know what is going on and need to know what is reliable for them to pull off serious stunts and all the randomness and observation ruins planing.

Stuff like taking the shoes off, throwing away shampoo, crotch groping, so-call ‘naked pictures’, laptop batteries, on plane marshals etc etc. Those things are designed to intimidate people into obeying and to make them feel safe that somebody with power is in charge.

Needless to say a 9-11 attack will never happen again. The assailants followed airport rules 100% and it depended on the policies and advise put into place that told people and crew that resistance is the worst thing you could do. That if you just obey and wait for the government to help you then that is your best chance at survival. What the terrorists did on that day could never happen again because now there are going to be a significant number of passengers that would rather die fighting then see another plane running into a building.

radnex November 16, 2010 at 11:07 am

I am amazed and astounded to see another person who has finally gotten it.

Now, we just have to get the rest of the country on board.

We have foolishly spent too many years teaching people that self-defense is immoral and too dangerous for the average person. It is time that we take responsibility for our own defense in ALL parts of our own lives, not just merely at the airport.

It is time for the American government to go back to taking care of it’s enumerated powers that it is restricted to in the Constitution, and to leave everything else up to the people and the states respectively.

Christopher Parker November 15, 2010 at 1:41 pm

The roadblocks are already here, but run by the boarder patrol which is allowed to set them up within 100 miles of the border.

Sacrificing freedom as the price of freedom doesn’t make sense. I am willing to sacrifice my absolute safety for the sake of freedom and that’s what we should be asking of people. I’d rather take the chance of being on ‘that’ plane in order to live in a free society. (I’m not saying take away security entirely, just keep it from being so intrusive and control oriented.)

Mark November 16, 2010 at 10:15 am

Don’t just “opt out” of naked scanners only to be sexually molested, instead. Boycott Flying COMPLETELY, until sanity returns! Please join us: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Flying/126801010710392

Jack Dingler November 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Here’s my Division of Labour co-blogger (and fellow Wash U economics PhD) Michael Munger doing his usual kvetching about this or that pointless and expensive invasion of privacy. As there have now been naked pictures of me taken at several airports (San Francisco, most recently), all I can say to poor Mike is that these encroachments on and invasions of our basic liberties are the price we pay for freedom.

Once upon a time, our rights and our freedoms were endowed by the Creator.

Now the government has taught us that we have to pay, to get what God gave us.

We have to surrender our liberties, to pay for our freedoms, which we’ve surrendered, to pay for them…

Josh Caswell November 17, 2010 at 4:52 pm

. . .these encroachments on and invasions of our basic liberties are the price we pay for freedom.

You’re joking, right? Step back for a second. Encroachments on liberty contribute to freedom. The dictionary practically defines those two words in terms of each other. Do you not see how self-contradictory that sentence is? How could being under the control of someone else in a specific instance make me, on the whole, less under the control of others?

JM in San Diego November 21, 2010 at 3:32 am

The worst part of the TSA operation is their refusal to establish a Trusted Traveler program. With a Top Secret security clearance for the Navy, I would qualify, but TSA would rather treat me as Unknown.

Their choice is such a foolish one! I am unconditionally trustworthy and they refuse to take even the slightest glance at my background. Many thousands of travelers are similarly qualified but this investigative tool is not allowed at the airports.

If a carpenter were “crippled” the same way by his company, he’d not be allowed to have his hammer and saw.

Lee November 22, 2010 at 8:01 am

It’s obvious to anyone who has learned about how the Israelis do airport security that obscene scanners or groping of private parts is not necessary for 99% of the flyers. What is necessary is racial, ethnic, religous, and national origin screening. The TSA and anyone who supports this current policy is simply not fit to be an American. TSA supporters, go away and live in some other country, please! We don’t want passive serfs like you here in the USA! I wonder how much farther the government will go before true Americans finally revolt and put them in their place? These TSA vermin who molested the young boy are very lucky someone like my grandfather was not around. He would have punched them out in a second.

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