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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14902/privatizing-air-security/

Privatizing Air Security

December 6, 2010 by

It’s not as if TSA officials had said all along, since 2001, that they needed full-body scanners in order to do their jobs properly. Had they said that in the beginning, then the public probably would’ve protested enough such that the “small-government” George Bush wouldn’t have nationalized airport security. FULL ARTICLE by Robert P. Murphy


Ohhh Henry December 6, 2010 at 9:30 am

If a passenger who is supposed to be seated near us on our next flight has a bomb in his underwear, I suspect most of us would prefer that the explosive be uncovered when he tries to get through airport security

Actually, most of us would prefer that “well dressed, American-accented strangers” apparently working in some capacity for the US government didn’t pressure airlines into allowing underwear bombers onto planes without a passport.

SirThinkALot December 6, 2010 at 10:50 am

I’m worried about what the government will do if some terrorist detonates a bomb in the crowded security line, or decides to go for a public bus, where theres practically no security.

J. Murray December 6, 2010 at 12:16 pm

They’ll make you go through a pre-security screening to get groped before going to the regular one to get groped.

Rick December 6, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Good question. A terrorist really doesn’t have to get on a plane anymore. The security risk for what you forecast is unacceptably high given how TSA currently does things. I also question if TSA’s focus will be distracted from carry-on bags if they get consumed with digital strip searching and pat-downs.

If a terrorist is ever again successful at detonating a bomb in-flight then it might very difficult to determine just how the bomb was snuck past security, or what type of bomb it was. The only reason they know about the underwear and shoe methods is because those attacks failed, and because private citizens acted. In other words TSA is reactive, clutching at straws, and doesn’t appear to know their enemy. From an economic and consumer point-of-view, I’m far less confident in airline security than I’ve ever been.

Chris P. December 6, 2010 at 11:30 am

Bob, can you explain this:

“In a truly free market in air travel, insurance companies would probably play a much larger role. For example, suppose that the legal system held airlines strictly accountable for the damages their planes imposed on others in the event of a hijacking or explosion.”

Why should a libertarian law code hold an airline liable for damages caused by a hijacking? If someone steals my car and goes for a joyride and someone is injured, the thief should be held liable, not me. Correct? If someone steals my gun and commits murder, the thief is the only person liable. If someone steals my airplane and crashes it into a building, the hijacker is liable, not me.

You might say as condition for flying over cities, the airline would have to negotiate permission with the property owners first. The negotiations would presumable result in the airlines agreeing to assume liability for hijacked aircraft; but using Rothbard’s homesteading a technological unit, the owners of the buildings in a city don’t own the airspace above their buildings, only the air in and around the immediate premises.

I see no way (in a libertarian law code) an airline could be held liable for a hijacking, nor should it have purchase liability insurance for it.

Wildberry December 6, 2010 at 12:29 pm

You make a good point. However, liability has a “due care” component to it. To Bob’s point, transferring the responsibility to the government almost entirely relieves airlines of this requirement for due care, since the government is providing this care. Bob has point here.

Also, just as in manufacturing cost accounting there is something called “activity based accounting”, the issue of “protection” can be viewed in this way. To the extent any aspect of this service could be provided through free-market competition, it would make sense to do so if the cost/benefits were superior to bureaucratic provision.

However, you always arrive at the issue of “investigation” and “enforcement”, which are government functions. Could “profiling” be done by the free-market? To some extent, yes; for example in offering incentives for voluntarily submitting your private information to an airline or agency in exchange for lower fares, expedited lines, etc.

But what if not everyone submits? Or, what if diving deep into someone’s history, travel habits, place of origin, etc. turned out to be the most “efficient” method of provisioning security?

Nicholas December 6, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Even if the airlines are not the ones held liable for the damages, I’m sure that another variation of terrorist insurance would come about. It could be in the form of extra P&C protection for the airplane itself by the airline; terrorist attack insurance for high-profile buildings and skyscrapers etc.
I am a libertarian and actuary, and I can hardly fathom the increase of insurance companies and products if we had truly free markets. If you were worried about losing your job, you’d buy unemployment insurance. If you want to insure your bank deposits (of course, it shouldn’t be an issue without fractional reserve banking in the first place) you could purchase insurance for that too. There are many examples of places where insurance could pop up and provide more jobs for accountants, actuaries, salesmen and underwriters if the state got out of being lax “insurers” by coersive taxation. I’d love to see that day and start my own insurance company. Can’t compete with a “free” service though if you need paid, so I can do nothing more but to wait and hope.

Matthew Swaringen December 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I think the level of liability would be decided based on market forces in the area of arbitration first.

Whether or not airlines should be liable for hijackers is something that would be decided, and I think it’s a near certainty that without a certain level of precaution being taken they would be liable.

While I agree with you on your point about a car generally, lets say you left your keys in the ignition. I think doing such a thing does make your somewhat responsible in my view. And if you don’t have a car but an 18 wheeler, I’d say the importance of not leaving the keys in the ignition goes up, and the likelihood I’d see you as partly responsible is higher.

The problem is that if someone is hijacking something in order to cause destruction their liability matters about zero. They are going to be dead and no one is going to have any method to recover. To say that no one should pay in no way eliminates those costs that were incurred due to insufficient security measures. I can’t imagine a judge in private arbitration saying you don’t have any responsibility at all.

Mashuri December 6, 2010 at 2:24 pm

There are also intangibles for an airline to think of. If Airline X has a reputation for lax security and a history of hijackings while Airline Y has a pristine reputation, X will lose business to Y.

Ben December 6, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Surely you kid….

Only the government can protect us from the problem they created in the first place!

billwald December 6, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Humans are terrible at risk evaluation. Americans are maybe 1000 times more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than an official terrorist but drunk driving is our national sport.

Dave Albin December 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm

A private road owner would ensure that drunk driving did not occur on his road because other drivers (customers) would quit using his dangerous road. Also, the legal system currently treats too many drunk drivers with kid gloves.

Anthony December 7, 2010 at 9:49 pm

And that is why some people invested years of time in learning to be better at evaluating risk than the average person. They developed algorithms and devised systems that compensate for innate human biases. They are not perfect, but they are certainly not useless.

Dave Albin December 6, 2010 at 4:07 pm

One quick question – I thought that most airports were privately owned? Do you mean their fascist nature – in bed with the state? Airports seem to respond more to the market than roads, which link capitals and county seats primarily.

Jonathan M. F. Catalán December 6, 2010 at 6:08 pm

What constitutes an airport? I think most large, municipal (especially international airports) are owned by whatever government organization is responsible for security of a given territorial area. For example, the San Diego airport (both the international and the domestic terminals) is owned by the San Diego Regional Airport Authority.

Capt Mike December 6, 2010 at 6:23 pm

The term ‘Airport’ is obsolete. The proper term (according to Big Janet) is ‘Aviation Environment’. Please make a note of that.

Dave Albin December 7, 2010 at 10:20 pm


Allen Weingarten December 6, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I suggest that each suspect be placed in a bomb-proof room, whereupon any and all explosives are detonated. The only problem is that after this is performed many times, it will be noted that whereas Muslims are only 1% of the population, they are over 95% of those detonated — which is a clear case of profiling.

Capt Mike December 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Securing aircraft as opposed to other venues:
I dare not list in a public forum the multitude of mass-death possibilities which leap into my mind. And I’m a NICE guy.
These require as little as a can of gas, and range up to nukes (and, yes, they are available on the black market). The delivery is dirt-simple.
I think America is damn lucky that there aren’t hordes of Muslim terrorists (outside the FBI that is).
The sheer non-volume of true incidents is frankly astonishing. And NONE prevented by TSA.
I say, USA out of the Middle East before our luck runs out….

Tim Kern December 7, 2010 at 11:07 am

Let’s recall that all the 9-11 criminals used government-approved weapons, and went through government-approved screening. The flight crews (who could have been armed, under the laws then-existing, but were not, because the airlines never bothered to get them trained — in the government-authorized FAA-run training programs that, by the way, didn’t exist) all followed government-approved procedures: surrender to the terrorists; do whatever they want you to do.

Only the citizens aboard Flight 93 had even a chance — and they improvised.

The empirical evidence suggests the federales always know what’s best. That’s what makes the TSA even more irritating — inefficiency and expense are piled atop haughtiness and degradation.

Ohhh Henry December 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

The empirical evidence suggests the federales always know what’s best.

Of course they know what’s best … for the federales. I have never heard of a single person being fired for the security lapses on 9/11, from the bottom to the very top of the US government. Nobody was fired and everyone else enjoyed bigger budgets, promotions and pay raises, more legislated power, and more chances to make $$$$ by jumping to the “private” sector that lives off security-related contracts.

David J. Sanchez December 8, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Another great article proving that the gov.’t. only complicates and makes everything more expensive especially as these same TSA’s are ready to join a union and triple the price of “security”. Let private industry and insurance companies take care of this problem only with minimal Federal Gov.’t. oversight. This gov.’t. is bloated and stifling of our freedoms and needs to be curtailed ASAP.

ok December 13, 2010 at 8:14 am

the SAFETY ACT limits liability for security company’s AND their clients

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