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Rob Fisher does a junk-touching round-up

Here at Samizdata we’ve only paid rather sporadic attention to this whole TSA grope and change (a phrase we have surely not heard the last of) thing, our most thorough airing of the issue so far having been in this posting and in its comments. But over at Transport Blog there is an excellently link rich posting about it all, compiled by Rob Fisher.

In particular Rob notes a Slashdot commenter (on this) saying something which particularly deserves to get around:

I don’t even think the TSA should be the one scanning the people at all, it should be the individual airlines. That way you can choose to pay for your security if you really want it, and competitive practices can find the optimal solution.

Indeed, and this was mentioned in passing in the comments on that earlier Samizdata posting. Safety doesn’t need to be imposed by governments. People want safety, but they also want other things (fun, convenience, speed, comfort, not to be embarrassed or humiliated by neanderthals, etc.) and it should be up to people to make the trade-offs for themselves.

Personally, I suspect that an under-discussed aspect of all this is that a lot of people in the USA (as in many other places), and in particular just now in positions of authority and influence in the USA, think that air travel is evil and that curtailing it, by whatever method that works, is just terrific. These people are fast losing the argument about why air travel is evil (global warming blah blah blah), but the terrorism thing gives them an excuse to just keep on hacking away at the abomination (as they see it) of regular people regularly taking to the air. And the more that regular people squeal that they ain’t gonna fly no more, the merrier these flying-is-evil killjoys will feel about it all. Protest from the ranks of the newly immobilised is good because that means that it’s really working.

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17 comments to Rob Fisher does a junk-touching round-up

  • ian

    Paying for safety is fine, but as we know from Lockerbie, when a plane goes down, it isn’t just those on board who can be affected – not to mention pilots and other crew who may not have had the option.

    On the same issue, have you seen the insanity of the TSA confiscating a nail clipper from a National Guardsman armed with an M4 carbine? (along with over 300 similarly armed men)

    http://ibanda.blogs.com/panchromatica/2010/11/the-ultimate-tsa-stupidity.html

  • ian

    Sorry – my previous comment (now held in the smite zone) was made before reading the Transport Blog post, where I see they did indeed pick up on the nail clippers.

  • iain

    No need to apologise re the nail clippers and the gun. Some stories are plenty good enough to be told lots of times, and just because Rob’s Transport Blog post contained a link to this story doesn’t mean everyone reading these comments will have clocked it.

  • Richard Thomas

    Brian, there are also plans afoot for a high speed passenger train network in the US. Given that what exists as Amtrak currently needs to be heavily subsidised, it may be a hard sell. I can’t help thinking that making plane travel more onerous will only make this more attractive.

  • Tedd

    I don’t even think the TSA should be the one scanning the people at all, it should be the individual airlines. That way you can choose to pay for your security if you really want it, and competitive practices can find the optimal solution.

    I suspect it’s not generally appreciated that the established companies in any industry are typcially among the biggest supporters of government regulation, and this is especially true of industries with a large liability risk. As Ian alluded to above, if the airlines were responsible for their own security then they would also incur a sizable liability risk, which is exactly why they prefer that the government handle security.

    This is true of all government regulation of private industry, and is why aviation is such a heavily government-regulated industry. In Canada, it was companies in the aviation industry that first asked the federal government to regulate it, back in the twenties or so when there was essentially no government regulation yet. They realized that regulation by the federal government would achieve several desirable things for them.

    It would limit their liability. You’re less likely to be found negligent if you can show that you followed government regulations.

    It would eventually help protect them from competitors, as established companies would already have the infrastructure to meet the growing regulations, but new companies would have to build it. In Canada and many other countries, it also protected them from competition directly by regulating who could fly what routes.

    It would protect them from regulation by lower levels of government. In Canada, for example, the federal government has maintained exclusive authority to regulate aviation, despite many (and ongoing) attempts by provincial and municipal governments to add their own regulations.

    It would create good will and a positive image in the mind of “the public,” paid for by tax dollars rather than by the industry itself.

    It would almost certainly lead to more infrastructure (airports, air traffic control, etc.) not paid for exclusively by the industry. In other words, a subsidy.

    Depending on your point of view, you can regard these things as beneficial or detrimental. But I think public debate on government regulation and on subjects like aviation security and aviation liability would be greatly improved if the positive attitude of companies toward government regulation were more widely appreciated.

  • Tedd

    I guess that was a bit of a preach to the choir. Sorry.

  • Erik

    I believe the the appropriate term for the new TSA procedure is now “Gate Rape”.

  • Ian F4

    If security was left up to the airlines we’d all soon be exclusively flying “Kafir Air”.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    On the other hand, terrorists are trying new things all the time, so can someone, instead of criticising existing approaches, tell us how to detect terrorists that is better than this approach?
    After all, i wouldn’t want terrorists to have the last laugh- we get rid of these techniques, and then they start blowing up planes!

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  • J.M. Heinrichs

    I trust, ‘Nuke’ Gray, that was an honest question; you might explore the Israeli option.

    Cheers

  • This is a very good article I like your post because it imparts interesting information .That really interesting i dont know much about TSA .I really feel like I have a better understanding now.

  • This is a very good article I like your post because it imparts interesting information .That really interesting i dont know much about TSA .I really feel like I have a better understanding now.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Brian, the anti-aircraft/fun thing may be a part of it; also let’s not forget that the policymakers who come up with these ideas tend to not be subjected to this. It would be good to ask your average MP, Congressman or member of any other assembly about their travel arrangements.

    They probably think that security checks are for “the little people”. The rich, of course, get to fly from a Learjet or Gulfstream type of aircraft, and I doubt they are subjected to this sort of thing.

    Hope and change!

  • Paul S

    Unsuprisingly it’s worse in the UK. Re the scanners in the US as Rob Fisher says in the link, “you can opt-out, but you get an “enhanced” pat-down. ”

    Whereas, for example the Manchester airport website here in the UK bluntly says “additional Government legislation came into operation at this airport, which states that any passenger who refuses to use the scanner will be denied travel.”

  • Jonathan Pearce wrote:

    Brian, the anti-aircraft/fun thing may be a part of it; also let’s not forget that the policymakers who come up with these ideas tend to not be subjected to this.

    And right on cue: TSA: Some gov’t officials to skip airport security

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