Okay, But Let's Haggle About the Price

 Posted on November 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

"I just want to arrive safely, and they are welcome to take pictures of me, my wife, and my daughters." That's from the comments to Ruth Marcus's Don't Touch My Junk? Grow Up, America.

I can't make this stuff up:

a. Sometimes I understand why people are afraid to use their names on the internet-postsucks99‘s wife and daughters might not already know what a spineless beta he is.b. In the future, "whatever it takes" will include cavity searches. Please prepare your womenfolk. Your statist overlords thank you for your advance approval.c. "Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!"

Any public policy decision should be based on a cost-benefit analysis. Lacking from the statist pro-scan-or-grope propaganda I've seen (Marcus's column is typical of the genre) are two things: first, an objective analysis of the benefits of scan-or grope; and second, an acknowledgment of the costs of scan-or-grope (it doesn't offend us, so it shouldn't offend you).

My defense of the new procedures assumes that there is some rational basis for the screening madness: that the techniques work and that there is not a less intrusive alternative.

The assumption is unfounded. Governments and bureaucracies expand their powers to fill the available space. The "rational basis" for the screening, in the eyes of the TSA or the government, might be that it creates more jobs, or that it makes people like Marcus feel safer, or that it makes people like Marcus feel less safe, or that some politician liked the idea.

Marcus uses the example of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber. Scan-or-grope might have kept him from trying to get on the plane with a bomb in his panties, but passenger and crew action in fact kept him from detonating it. Letting us take care, in large measure, of ourselves is the "less intrusive alternative" that we know worked in that case.

Maybe "the techniques work," in that they make air travel at least marginally safer. Maybe there is no less intrusive alternative to get that marginal increase in safety. Let's, for the sake of the argument make those assumptions, as Marcus made them. That can't be, as Marcus would have it, the end of the inquiry. Reasonable people don't say, "whatever it takes."

There are things we would be willing to give up for a marginal increase in safety, and things we would not. (Eating sugar is bad for us, but most of us keep eating it.) The statist propagandists aren't offended by the idea of TSA deadenders taking naked pictures of their daughters or groping their genitalia; that's their prerogative. But they don't recognize that many other people are offended, and in failing to acknowledge that, they are preaching only to their frightened choir.

There is a word for people who would cede to the government responsibility to keep them and their families safe: victims. For people like Marcus and postsucks99 who would say, "whatever it takes," giving up freedom for a possible marginal increase in safety, there is another word: subjects.

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