Rebirth of Reason

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Friday, April 23 - 10:33amSanction this postReply

Remarkable letter! If I could sanction this multiple times, I would. When I first read it, I didn't realize you had written it, and thought, this is a brilliant letter. I wonder who wrote it. I'm not surprised that it was printed, nor am I surprised that there have been no critical responses to it.

- Bill

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Friday, April 23 - 11:13amSanction this postReply
Thanks for your kind words, Bill. The Santa Fe New Mexican prints everything I send, I think because there are so few anti-establishment views sent to the editor that they have to give the impresssion that they aren't just a toady of liberalism. They will only accept one letter or "My View" a month.

Here is a longer "My View" item that was published in January:

Americans have developed a knee jerk reaction when they are confronted with some sort of national emergency and plead that the government do something anything. A case in point is the matter of aircraft terrorists and passenger screening. Granted, it is within the purview of the federal government to examine the credentials of passengers to ensure that their passports are in order, that they are not on the no-fly list, and so on, but surely it is the obligation not of the government but of the individual airlines to provide safe passage for their customers. Airlines should have the freedom to create their own screening techniques and procedures, competing with one another with respect to scanners, pat-downs, profiling, patterns of behavioral, air marshals, etc. There will always be a trade-off between security, cost and convenience but the policies and implementations of the different airlines would provide a choice, and there is no more galvanizing motive than profit to provide what the public wants and needs.
There is no competition to the Transportation Security Administration. Recently, security cameras at the Newark airport were inadvertently turned off for six days before the lapse was discovered merely by chance. This contrasts starkly with the motivation that airlines would have by competing with one another to ensure rigor in their procedures because any failure would almost certainly result in major corporate financial losses. The repercussions for a TSA failure are diffuse and in no degree as severe as those which would descend upon an airline. And how would travelers know which airlines would be most effective? The same way that we know which TV set has the least power consumption, greatest clarity and value through advisors such as Consumers Union. Independent rating agencies should be able to have a free hand to secretly break security and report their findings to their subscribers. Such groups have had a reputation of unbiased reporting on similar issues and they would also be competing with one another. Of course, terrorists would have access to the reviews and everyone would know that fact but there would always be some variations in the assessments and terrorists wouldn't necessarily target the lowest rated airline. The lower rated airlines would be forced by public opinion to increase their precautions and this would result in dynamic equilibrium approaching a defacto standard of security. When airline companies are free to compete they may come up with all sorts of innovative solutions.
If it were conceivable that the TSA would relegate screening to the private airlines what about the funding? It goes without saying that the government would want to subsidize the airlines in order to maintain control (and power is what bureaucracies want to protect at all costs) but it would be ostensibly to "help" the airlines. This raises the contradiction of shareholders in other forms of transportation such as ships, buses and trains being forced to pay taxes that would go to support their competition. If flying as a mode of transportation becomes less attractive due to new conditions then the travel industry must adapt, otherwise all the signals that are required for a free economy to function would be destroyed. Strangely enough, the new paradigm could be accomplished without thousands of pages of mind-numbing regulations and rules that have accompanied other government changes. 
The point of this article is to make the general case that centralized power and control is often misapplied and can result in distortions to the economy and, in the specific case above, it can compromise the safety of the nation.

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