In a brief beak, I read this summary of a burger taste-test that stacks up In-N-Out Burger, Shake Shack, and Five Guys (ht: Jeremy Horpedahl). It caught my eye because Memphis now has a Five Guys and because of something that happened the last time I was in Las Vegas: I asked at the desk of my hotel if there were any churches nearby. The clerk responded that there weren’t but that there was an In-N-Out Burger if I liked burgers. I thought back to the one time I’ve had In-N-Out, and it was definitely an experience that brought me closer to God. I later learned that she probably thought I meant Church’s Chicken restaurants, which diminishes the quality of the story somewhat.
In any event, this paragraph caught my eye:
Our carefully laid plans hit a snag when all of our packets of In-N-Out Spread were confiscated at airport security, despite Carey’s offer to just empty the packets onto the hamburgers thereby circumventing the Transportation Security Administration’s liquid container restrictions. Say all you want about the hassles of the TSA’s Draconian security strategies, but I for one am glad to know that nobody on my flight will ever be able to hold me hostage with a packet of Thousand Island dressing by threatening to squirt it in my eye or perhaps by inappropriately dressing my turkey wrap.
While I would encourage the authors to avoid being naive about the threat of a condiment-wielding ne’er-do-well ruining food that you might carry on, I couldn’t help but shake my head. By these kinds of policies–presumably enforced with straight faces–the government erodes its own perceived legitimacy. In short, it erodes respect for “The Law” when the laws in place are demonstrably absurd. It is difficult to take an organization seriously when it devotes scarce resources to confiscating condiments in an ostensible attempt to fight a threat that is probably not that serious to begin with (before you say “what do you mean ‘not that great to begin with? Don’t you remember what happened on 9/11?’, please read this excellent essay by John Mueller). Policies that involve confiscating condiments, frisking babies, touching Miss USA’s vagina, or touching children in ways that would get the officers arrested in other contexts expose the TSA for what it is: a resource-wasting affront to liberty and dignity. The TSA invariably responds that the officers in question are following or have followed “proper procedure,” but if these procedures are “proper,” they need to change.