Our Pavlovian Population

The TSA is one of my favorite government agencies. It’s such a poster child for the public-school-indoctrinated, politically correct, pixie-dust-sniffing majority that exists on the other side of the looking glass and yet seems to be running our country.

Most people I come into contact with on a daily basis fall into this category and whenever we discuss airline security and I propose airlines being responsible for their own security the response is so Pavlovian, so reflexive that that I can almost beat them to the punch: oh we can’t have that. The big airlines don’t care about your safety; they just care about making money.

I almost laugh just writing that. True, I have to admit, most people don’t go into business with the goal of losing money so I have to concede that point.

Such statements reflect so clearly, so poignantly, just how ass-backwards people in this country have been taught to think. They have literally been programmed not to see things as they are, but to see them the way the government wants them to see them. They assign the government some sort of place of social superiority; an organization that, in certain situations such as airline security, is the only organization that can protect Americans from the bogeyman.

How simple is it really to consider such a proposition and realize how completely absurd it is?

First of all, the contention is that the private sector is either too greedy, to immoral or too inept to sufficiently provide airline security so the government is going to do it. Where does the government get the people to do the airline security? From the private sector; moving right along.

The private sector is full of firms specializing in security with people who are experts in the field and who compete against one another for work. The government hires people who have absolutely no experience in security of any kind and gives them basic training on how to recognize objects in an x-ray machine, how to do a full-body pat-down or how to do their explosive powders tests on a laptop. And they compete against no one. Once you’re in you are in for life as long as you don’t quit or kill someone.

If a private sector security firm fails in providing adequate security to a client, the firm is penalized which can lead to financial losses, legal action and possibly the failure of the firm. If the TSA fails to provide adequate security it leads to increased funding at taxpayer’s expense and employment of yet more unqualified security personnel in order to address the now identified security hole; has anyone other than me opened that bottle of Jack yet?

A private security firm represents their own interests as well as the interests of their client. They must add value of some sort to the airlines they work for or else the airline will lose money in the form of fewer passengers, law suits and the like and the security firm would risk losing their contract with the airline. The TSA represents no one’s interests. They will never suffer any sort of financial or fiscal penalties based on their performance since their revenues are forcibly taken from Americans rather than earned. Unlike the private security firm, the TSA has absolutely no incentive to care about what kind of job they do. In fact the more security loop-holes that are identified the more money they are appropriated and the larger they grow. Precisely the opposite sort of incentive any rational person would want in an organization solely responsible for their safety. Just think about that for a second: the worse they do their job, the more money they get. Note: if you are out of Jack, Jim or Johnny can help clear the intellectual fog as well.

Furthermore, the more and more resources the government takes from the private sector, the more and more resources the private sector does not have that could be used for private airline security. Eventually it will reach the point that even if airlines were given the u201Cprivilegeu201D (privilege here meaning a right the airlines had all along but that the government has taken away) to do their own security there wouldn’t be the resources with which to do it. The government raises these sorts of barriers to entry and competition in the private sector all the time and effectively has a monopoly in airline security. That should scare the living s__t out of anyone given what we’ve just discussed about the backwards incentives facing the TSA.

If airlines were responsible for their own security then the costs of airline security would only fall to those that fly and the specific costs would fall to only those flying with a specific airline. Those costs of course would differ and passengers would be free to choose (remember when we had freedom of choice in this country) how much they are willing to pay for security. The costs of the TSA, however, falls to everyone, whether you fly or not and regardless which airline you fly with.

Lastly, and most importantly, private property rights and civil rights are protected in the private sector whilst they are regularly trampled on by the TSA. Given my confrontational nature I’ve had my share of run-ins with the TSA. They regularly grab my laptop off the conveyer belt and walk away with it asking u201Cwho’s laptop is this?u201D I remember in kindergarten I was taught that taking other people’s things without asking permission was rude and mean. I learned as an adult that it’s also against the law, unless of course you work for the law makers. I’ve had TSA managers tell me to my face: u201Cyou have to give up some of your civil liberties in order to have added security.u201D They’ve told me: u201Conce you put your things on the conveyer belt you’ve given us permission to do with it what we want.u201D I’ve been told: u201Cif you leave the security area and have forgotten something, then it becomes property of the TSA.u201D Of course, regardless of which airline you choose to fly with you are subjected to these sorts of affronts to your private property and civil rights.

If each airline, however, were responsible for their own security and you didn’t like the way you were being treated or if you felt your private property or civil rights were violated then you would have recourse. Depending on the nature of the incident you could have legal recourse or you could simply choose to fly with another airline that you feel better respects your rights as a person; anybody ever try taking legal action against the TSA? End of story.