Saturday, November 20, 2010

Let's Free Airline Security from TSA Control

COLUMN NOTES: There are several comments at the newspaper's link below where this was originally published if you want to go read those. I really like one person's comments about air travel options. Also, I'm always trying to really find the root causes of issues and this column at really seemed to hammer home how we are playing a part in creating this whole mess.

HARBESON: Put up a fight for flight

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I remember the first time I had to remove my shoes to get through airport security. While putting them back on, someone joked that eventually we’ll be taking off all our clothes to get through security.

I laughed. But I’m not laughing now.

If you haven’t heard already, body scanner machines, which use X-ray technology to see through your clothes, are rapidly being installed in airports around the country. (Louisville does not have scanners. Yet.)

The body scanners are the latest move in the Transportation Security Administration’s reactionary efforts to provide airline safety. Previous actions like the shoe removal and three-ounce liquid limits were met with some initial protest and derision, but in the end were grudgingly accepted.

However, these new scanners are causing a much greater negative response from varied groups. There are many concerns about these body scanners, from radiation exposure, to privacy and even effectiveness. Yet stimulus funds are pouring into the purchase of these machines sold by companies well-connected to lobbyist groups and government officials.

Currently, passengers can opt out of these “naked” body scanners and several groups are using this opt-out process to organize an educational event. “National Opt Out Day” will be Wednesday. (To learn more about this outreach, go to

Other groups say only a full boycott will do because opting out has its own problems. If you opt out of the scanners, you will be subject to an “enhanced pat down” by TSA personnel. If you’re wondering what “enhanced pat down” means, let’s just say that a rubber-gloved TSA agent will grope the areas your momma always told you never to let a stranger touch.

Worst of all, none of this will really make you safe. The inside of the body remains unseen and you can easily guess what the next step will be for the determined terrorist.

So the question then becomes, what are you willing to subject yourself to next? Will you obediently drink the radioactive Kool-Aid if the government tells you it’s the only way you can be safe?

We already know some people will submit to further intrusions on their body. These people say their safety is worth any preventive measure. And they should be free to submit if they want. But this freedom isn’t extended to everyone which is why we have a problem.

Everyone weighs potential dangers and risks differently. There’s a wide range of what people are willing to accept or not accept as they evaluate the statistical probabilities of certain actions.

But individuals are not allowed to weigh risks and benefits of security measures when it comes to flying. The government has taken complete control. Everyone has to submit to their determination, no matter how misguided, political, ineffective and equally dangerous it might be.

Do we really need and benefit from a government monopoly on airline safety? Why not let airline businesses decide what they want to do for security and then let individual customers decide who to patronize?

No one can predict what creative ideas could come from such freedom and competition. The options could be exactly the same as they are now. But it’s more likely that airline security would be very different as airlines cater to a wide variety of customers and take actions to prove they are indeed safe.

I also can’t help but wonder if the result of such competition would mean that that the airline flights I chose would be full of people who understand they must ultimately be ready to take charge of their own safety. I hope so because those are the types of people I’d want around in the unlikely event a terrorist did make it on my plane.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson does not want to opt out of flying because she still hasn’t made it into the Mile High Club.


  1. Good signature line -- edgy.

    And, of course, a good article as well. I'm with you that the free market could do a much better job of determining how much security is "just right".

  2. Now Debbie,
    Once you encourage a giant coercive monopoly on military and intelligence services to go gallivanting around the globe pissing people off and re-engineering the political climate of the world for it's masters, you must then let that same coercive monopoly redeem itself by offering it's expensive, flawed services at home in protecting people from the fallout of those activities. Thus the circle of aggression is complete and the self-esteem of Uncle Sam is repaired.

    To suggest an alternative paradigm might deprive us of the pleasures of bowing down to the flag and patting ourselves on the back for our respective contributions to apple pie, Chevrolet, and the common good.

    Now step into the scanner you troublemaker. The radiation will help you "get your mind right" ;P