Thursday, November 29, 2012
Although I disagree with many aspects of
such cost-benefit analyses, an analysis of the cost to "society" of airport "security"
measures put in place since the atrocities of September 11, 2001 brings up the
There is lethal collateral damage associated with all this spending on airline security--namely, the inconvenience of air travel is pushing more people onto the roads. Compare the dangers of air travel to those of driving. To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist. Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month--which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day. They also suggest that enhanced domestic baggage screening alone reduced passenger volume by about 5 percent in the five years after 9/11, and the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid security hassles over that period resulted in more than 100 road fatalities. [bold added]As I have noted before, this analysis omits the hours of wasted time irretrievably lost from the lives of countless air passengers and the fact that a whole generation of Americans is becoming accustomed to the idea that it is normal for government officials to treat everyone like suspected criminals, with the unreasonable searches and physical violations that constitute so many of the measures. These costs are all borne by individuals, the only legitimate, ultimate answer to the rationale behind the question, "For whom is this a cost?"
Sadly, just as too many people will accept government handouts of looted money belonging to other people, too many also accept the idea of the government forcing everyone to participate in a grotesque show of "security" measures so that they can feel safer. We can and should stop Islamic savages from attacking our country, but not at the cost of our own freedom.
Note that I did not say "at the cost of our lives", here. That is because, for a rational animal, one needs freedom to use one's mind, and so, ultimately, to live. For example: Were some one hundred drivers not forced to weigh hassles and wasted time against the costs of a road trip, they might still be alive. (The fact that this is not the result every time is beside the point.) Not to downplay the atrocity, but they are only the most dramatic example of the cost, to individuals, of these measures. Of the ones who didn't die or get injured in driving accidents, all lost time and are having to live in a less-free nation.
PS: This is not to say that, in a fully free society, airlines might not decide to screen passengers, or that there is no viable, legitimate role for the government in ending religiously-motivated terrorism.