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Transportation Danger Administration

Everyone’s angry at the TSA about the new airport search procedures. I don’t like it either. I normally prefer to argue from principle, but every freedom loving writer in America has that covered this time. So instead I’ll take a pragmatic angle that I haven’t heard yet.

  1. How many people are now choosing automobiles over airplanes because they don’t want to be radiated or fondled?
  2. As you know, air travel is safer than road travel. So how many injuries/deaths should we expect as a result of this increased car travel?
  3. How much do the TSA’s new screening procedures reduce the chance of injury/death on an aircraft?

Soon, some economist will figure out the answers to numbers 1 and 2. I suspect number 3 is not quantifiable, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some bureaucrat has already made up an answer.

Regardless, I strongly suspect that the answer to number 2 is going to dwarf the most optimistic guess for number 3. Put another way, the Transportation Safety Administration is actually making transportation more dangerous.

I’m looking forward to putting some numbers to this.

In Defense of Property Rights

I like Stossel’s defense of Rand Paul.

This discussion illustrates a favorite statist power grab formula:

  1. Have the state interfere with the free market. (In this case the method of interference was Jim Crow laws).
  2. Observe and deplore the undesirable consequences.
  3. Blame the imaginary ‘free market’ which the state has rendered un-free by its interference. (Seriously, how was the free market supposed to eliminate racism when it was the law?)
  4. Enact more laws to compensate for undesirable consequences. Of course these laws interfere even more with the free market.

People and businesses should not be forced to use their property in a way to which they object. It’s important to defend this principle, even in those scenarios we find distasteful (or in the case of Jim Crow, disgusting). Once we accept the notion that government can tell you how to use your property – even if we deem the use desirable – we have no grounds to resist when they mandate a use which we don’t find desirable. Put another way, if some jackass wants to exclude some group of customers because he doesn’t like the way they look, that’s his right. We should defend it, even if we find it disgusting. (It’s the old principle vs. pragmatism tradeoff. If we’re willing to erode principle to achieve some expediency, one day we’ll wake up with the principle destroyed and expediency determined by whomever is the best armed.)

It’s sad that defending property rights gets one tagged as a racist.

Update: Dr. Williams says it better than I do.

Walter Williams on Economic Liberty