Groping for Answers

by: Mike Calpino

The news of the week are the new procedures implemented at airports around the country in the name of security. Once again we are closing the barn door after the horses are gone and refusing to consider the fact that it is a broken latch that keeps letting them out. First there was 9/11 so the list of prohibited objects in an airport grew immensely. Then there was the shoe bomber so we all have to take off our shoes. Then there was the underwear bomber so now we have to endure the hands of TSA employees in places only our wives or husbands should see. There have already been terrorists who placed explosives in various body cavities, and drug smugglers have been doing that for years. Are we going to have to endure full body cavity searches next?

Our security procedures are a strange mix of political correctness and a total disregard for our rights to be secure in our persons. Political correctness because we are afraid of offending the terrorists who want to kill us, the overwhelming majority of whom are young, middle eastern men from specific countries. They are not toddlers, senior citizens or nuns. Disregard for our rights because no one should be subject to such intimate and invasive procedures just because they want to travel. 99.99% of airline travellers are not terrorists and those 99.99% should not be treated as potential terrorists or criminals just because they want to fly to see grandma over the holidays. Certainly we have the choice as to whether or not we want to fly but it should be our free choice to enter into a private contract with an airline to provide us a service and the government should not require we check our rights or our dignity at the door when we enter into that contract.

There are simple solutions to this problem and they involve getting the government out of the airline security business. That’s right, the government should not be involved in airline security at all. Here is the solution. Let every airline run its own security. Some will say that the airlines will not do a good job but here is where you are wrong. The purpose of an airline is to provide a service, in this case getting people from point A to point B, for a profit. If an airline is lax in its security or maintenance or the ability to provide reliable service, it will gain a reputation for not getting people to their destination in a safe and timely manner. Therefore, they have a vested interest in making sure their planes are safe and well maintained or they will go out of business, and if they are negligent, to jail.

The airlines will go about this in various ways. Some may follow the TSA’s example and provide security with invasive searches and scanners that radiate people. My guess is that these airlines will find fewer passengers once there are choices available to the traveling public. Some may employ bomb sniffing dogs or require prior background checks. Some may employ ex-military personnel like El Al in Israel. Some will reinforce their cockpits or hire sky marshals to ride on every flight. Some may choose to profile. All of these are valid security techniques that incur a wide range of costs. The point is that by allowing each airline to experiment with what works, there will be an equilibrium reached between security and fare that will meet the needs of a variety of passengers. Paying ex-military personnel will be more expensive than having everyone walk naked in front of some minimum wage employee but some may choose the indignity to save money. That choice, however, should be ours.

Choice is the key. Not the choice made for us by some government bureaucrat motivated by political correctness and a complete disregard for our rights but the choice to enter into a private contract. In this case the contract the passenger makes with an airline to utilize its service for a set price. Before we enter into that contract we will be made aware of the security measures that airline takes and if we are dissatisfied with them we should be free to make our contract with another carrier. Will the occasional terrorist slip through the cracks in some airlines that choose the wrong security procedures? Probably at some point but that will be no different than what we have now. After all the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber and the mail bombers all found holes in our current procedures and it was only their ineptitude and the actions of the passengers that prevented catastrophes. Ultimately, that is the key. We voluntarily take the risk when we fly and therefore we are ultimately responsible for our own security. If we see something suspicious, we must act. If a terrorist wants to try something on a plane, we have the right to defend ourselves and our government should not punish us for doing so. For all its attempts to protect us, the fact is that the government can’t. It can’t be everywhere, know everything and properly utilize the tools necessary to prevent every criminal or terrorist act on a plane, or in our neighborhoods. Nor do we want it to try because any attempt to do so will result in a police state where our God-given rights are completely disregarded. We cannot trade liberty for security. It is up to us, as individuals and as a society, to stand together against lawlessness, being willing and able to defend ourselves, our families and our society against those who have no respect for life, liberty, property or our pursuit of happiness.

Reprinted with permission