We’ve all seen those YouTube videos of Transportation Security Administration officers molesting and groping passengers, or by now have experienced it first-hand on the way home for Thanksgiving break. Why have we all of a sudden given up on our civil liberties for a false sense of “security” and “safety”? Getting on a plane now entails us yielding our civil liberties without an alternative, and for what?
The fact of the matter is that the TSA is yet another bureaucratic agency, with an out-of-control ego. The TSA is simply not reliable, and like every other central planner, it is bound to fail. After September 11, the TSA hired 28,000 screeners in a rush for airport/airline “security.” These screeners were hired without background checks, some were even convicted felons, and others had no job experience. Before Sept. 11, government was supposed to protect us, and it turned out they didn’t do so great then either. It’s time we admit that it’s impossible to provide perfect safety, and in a rush for safety, federal agencies often do a lackluster job.
It’s not cheap either. The TSA has cost us $300 million and on top of that, $340 million were spent on staff costs — the body scanners just add to the already high cost of false safety. Even the Government Accountability Office has reported that the new body scanners would not have caught the “underwear bomber.”
It’s naive for the TSA to think that they can stop all terrorists — they’re not exactly dumb. Methods to get explosives on planes are evolving faster than the TSA can establish new rules and regulations. In fact, the inefficiency of the TSA in implementing new safety measures are likely to be outdated by the time they’re officially put in place.
Instead, we ought to leave security in the hands of airlines themselves. Maintaining safety through private means is the best method of ensuring security for all. If airlines want to go through the groping method, so be it. If airlines want to try a different pre-screening method, then let it be, because a one-size-fits-all approach will never work. Let airlines choose for themselves and give the customers some choice in their decisions. And who says private security doesn’t work? Israel gave up government control on airport/airline security in 1995, and since then there have been no airplane hijackings.
In the end, we need some sort of response mechanism so that those who do a poor job will be punished and those who do a good job will be rewarded — a free market is a solution for this. A market provides incentives for airlines to do their job well, unlike in the case of the TSA, whose consequences are certainly not as drastic if it makes a mistake. Benjamin Franklin couldn’t have said it any better when he said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”