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security monoculture

It turns out that the orriginal authorship about the pithy quote regarding the trade of liberty and security is in some dispute, and I tend to use the stronger misattributions anyway.

Is the ability to carry a soda onto an airplane an essential liberty? Perhaps not, in the larger scheme of things. However, it is a convenience whose denial seems out of proportion to the scale of the threat. It’s hard to judge the success of an agency like the TSA; the only evidence generally available to the public is negative: they haven’t failed yet. On the other hand, they’ve increased the hassle and annoyance of flight for millions of people every year. We put up with it, I think, because of the fear that they are in fact doing their job properly, that without their services, someone would immediately bomb a plane and show us all.

Car crashes are rare events for any individual. In many states, it is mandatory to wear seatbelts; they are a minor inconvenience which do in fact save lives on the rare occasions that they are needed. I prefer New Hampshire’s policy, though: until the age of majority, seatbelts are mandatory, but as soon as you become an adult, you are free to take your life into your own hands.

What might happen if airlines were free to implement their own security policies? They might all choose to adopt a single policy and follow the lead of the government. I would hope for a different path, though, in which natural variation might spring up. Some airlines might adopt extremely stringent policies, become fortresses in the sky, and mark their brand the king of security. Others might invest in subtler measures: armored cockpit doors and smart screening machines. I can’t say what effect this might have on the price, but I do know one thing: I would choose to fly on the latter sort of airline. I am willing to accept a tiny risk in exchange for a pleasant experience; I’m willing to take a large risk for a great one. It’s why I want to skydive; it’s why I like to ski; it’s why I plan to get a motorcycle license. Am I really alone in being willing to make that exchange?

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Comment by silversliver
2006-08-11 08:12:25

I definitely prefer freedom to carry a water bottle to draconian security measures. If the authorities merely had everyone open their bottles and smell them for household cleaners and do a perioxide test (there are chemical test strips for them) everyone should be able to carry on their liquids and gels with a minimum of inconvenience. I read on an article yedterday that the TSA is just having everyone dump their crap into one big barrel at the checkpoint. If anything is a bad idea, that is. I can think of several spontaneously explosive or fume-generating combinations off the top of my head (easily obtainable ingredients at the grocery or pool supply store) that could be used by ne’er-do-wells to keep anyone from getting off the ground. “What are you two pouring into that trash can?” “Just following the rules, Sir!” [wait 10 minutes] BANG.

I do not even feel safer with these “checks” in place.

Comment by tauceti
2006-08-11 10:39:42

I was thinking of the exact same thing… Here’s the article I read:

It’s really amazing the idiocy of these agencies that come up with these protocols.

Comment by vertumnus1
2006-08-14 14:44:13

I would think that those lobbying for no liquids on planes actually specifically had drinks in mind to some extent. While the safety aspect is one part, I doubt that alone would push the bill through. On the other hand, now the drink options of the fliers are more limited, increasing the chance they choose to purchase an extra drink.

Conspiracies everywhere!

This looks to me like an “Everyone must suffer for the acts of one dumb asshole” situation.


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