TSA Fatalities

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 following statistic:

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.

-- CAV

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.


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, speaking of the TSA, you should check out this pitiful bit of pro-TSA buffoonery at Volokh Conspiracy; it has to be read to be believed, but in short, the author loves the TSA and believes all male opposition to it is due to feelings of sexual inadequacy. (He admitted himself puzzled by the opposition of women to the TSA.) And after you read it, you should by rights make fun of it and its author, Stewart Baker, at every opportunity. Me, I think it would be great to break into his calendar and arrange it so I'm scheduled to fly on every flight he is and pass a word or two to his TSA heroes to make sure his waiting time gets extended by several hours. (Well, it might take more than a word or two, after all, for if verbum sat sapienti, the average TSA agent would need War and Peace.)

Gus Van Horn said...

"In part we do it to keep our place in the hierarchy of guys. But in the end, what we’re really hoping for is an Alice Munro moment — that our easy concentration and economical movements will set up in someone 'a procession of sparks and chills,' followed a few pages later by, well, what we deserve for all that demonstrated competence."

Oh, no! He's figured me out...

Not. But that is an interesting confession of a fear of inadequacy on his part.

Snedcat said...

The scary pause-giving aspect of it is that he was a bigwig at TSA for awhile. Is that really how they view us? Probably. It is revealing though that he's so sensual about obedience to uniformed authority. I guess you could say that while in public he was nearly at the top of the TSA, in his heart and in private he's all bottom.

Or, "But you say 'jack-booted thug' like that's a bad thing!"

Gus Van Horn said...

No surprise there: The biggest bullies are the ones who feel inadequate in one way or another.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, quite true. I guess the part that is surprising is that a grown man would reveal it so...memorably. Societally speaking, it really is a debased age we live in.

Gus Van Horn said...

Yes. Yesteryear's laughingstocks strut about as today's moral and political authorities.