Welcome to Liberrants, a blog dedicated to editorials, discussions, and studies of all things libertarian. Don't let the title mislead you; it's merely my attempt to be creative in describing myself as a "hopeful curmudgeon" who embraces the goal of the free, peaceful, economically vibrant society envisioned by America's founding fathers. Jump in! Contribute! Enjoy!

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Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States

A critically thinking curmudgeon whose goal, in addition to creatively venting about the imperfect world in which we live, is to induce critical thinking in others. The ultimate goal is to help bring about a peaceful world in which we can all live in freedom.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

It’s Time to Boycott Air Travel

Apparently the federal government has decided that it isn’t making air travelers miserable enough. That’s the only conclusion a reasonable person can reach with the revelation last week that the Terminally Stupid A**holes (or whatever TSA officially stands for) are going to start profiling behavior patterns of already beleaguered passengers at the nation’s airports. That’s right. If you show signs of fidgeting, nervousness, exasperation or anger (gee, why would anyone be angry after being strip-searched, forced to drink their own breast milk, and having their belongings rifled like a convicted felon?), you could be detained for detailed interrogation and/or placed on a “no-fly list”, assuming that the State would ever do anyone such an immense and humane favor.

No, I’m not making this up. Here it is, accompanied by appropriate commentary, here and here. Oh, are these too “biased” for your “conservative” sensibilities? Then try here, here, and here, among several other sources available on the Web, for a more “objective” sampling (just as an aside, I wonder why those of you who love to rant about the “leftist” MSM embrace these same media with open arms when they heap praise upon your beloved Bush Administration. It really leaves me scratching my head in amazement). I wonder how people “with double-digit IQs and triple-digit incomes”, as George Carlin describes them, people who can’t even detect fake weapons hidden in suitcases, let alone the real thing, are going to accurately gauge the mood or intent of potential “terrorists” just by glancing at their faces and observing what they perceive to be aberrant mannerisms. I don’t believe the average TSA screener has anything remotely resembling a degree in psychology or psychiatric medicine, so just how anyone expects them to be even remotely qualified to perform this type of screening is another mystery altogether.

At any rate, I think now is as good a time as any for Americans to stop and consider just how much more of this nonsense they are willing to put up with. Bearing in mind H.L. Mencken’s famous dictum, I would have to assume that, like battered spouses or abused animals and children, they’re going to put up with quite a bit more. But just to give them the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that Joe Sixpack has decided that the costs and hassles of air travel far outweigh any perceived benefit from it. Why not honor the memory of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday our benevolent government insists that we celebrate this month, by reviving his time-tested practice of non-violent resistance. How about a boycott of air travel? The Montgomery Bus Boycott achieved its desired goal by harnessing the peaceful economic powers of thousands of people to deprive an abusive transportation system of its revenue until some seriously flawed customer service policies were corrected. Why should we think that this strategy would be any less effective with airlines, most of which are in a precarious financial position as it is?

Stop to consider how often you travel by air, and for what purposes. If you fly, is it mostly for business or pleasure? If you fly for business, is air travel absolutely necessary to sustain your business with a particular client? Can you communicate with your client or deliver a product or service to them through some means other than flying to meet with them? If you travel for either business or pleasure, can you just as easily drive or take a bus, train, steamship, flatbed farm truck, or railroad freight car to and from your destination? If you answered “no” to the second question and “yes” to the third and fourth questions, there is no reason that you can’t send both the airline industry and its federal government puppeteers a wakeup call that they won’t soon forget.

I call upon all Americans, effective January 15 (Dr. King’s Birthday), to cease and desist from the use of air travel until both the airline industry and the United States government meet the following condition that reflects the behavior of a free and civilized nation:

The United States government shall
cease and desist immediately from requiring and implementing intrusive, random searches of potential airline passengers and/or seizures of their personal property without probable cause as required by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Random and mass searches or questioning of airline passengers and seizure of their property by federal law enforcement personnel without probable cause constitutes a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, fiats to the contrary from federal judges notwithstanding. The first step to eliminating the Fascist/Stalinist brutality that is government-run airport security is to take the government out of it altogether. If individual airlines choose to require that all persons booking passage on any of their aircraft be subject to search, seizure and inquiry, it is perfectly within their right to do so; an airline is, after all, a privately owned entity that should be free to impose whatever conditions it wishes upon its customers or employees or decide who it will accept or not accept as passengers. If passengers do not wish to be searched by a particular airline’s personnel, they can opt not to fly with this particular carrier. Free market, free choice. Conversely, airlines should also be free to either not search anyone at all if they choose not to do so, or to use specifically defined standards of probable cause to selectively search those passengers they believe to pose a potential threat to the safety, comfort, or well-being of their passengers and crew. Passengers will, as with any other endeavor in life, be traveling at their own risk and should be fully aware of the fact that there is always a distant chance that their flight could experience hijacking, catastrophic accident, or other danger to life, limb, and property, risks that are already implied or explicit as part of the contract that constitutes an airline ticket purchase and that common sense should make self-evident to any sentient adult in any case.

In answer to the obvious response this position will no doubt prompt, yes, some airlines might enact searches and screening just as draconian as that now practiced by the feds, if not more so. Yes, some airlines might, on the other hand, try to “cut corners” where security and safety are concerned in a move to cut costs. However, since other airlines will be well aware of the public’s negative reaction to intrusive screening or perceptions of lax safety and security, both common sense and the market dictate that there will be at least as many other airlines that will practice less intrusive screening of passengers, if they screen at all, and that will pay careful attention to security and safety where they are clearly necessary. Such carriers will undoubtedly command a higher market share than their competition that chooses to keep the TSA model of pseudo-security and make-believe safety, thus eventually driving these underachieving Soviet-style airlines out of business. To repeat a question I’ve asked rhetorically several thousand times, ain’t the market a wunnerful thing when you allow it to work unhindered? There is no valid reason to think the airline safety and security market would be any different from any other type of market.

So unless or until the federal government collectively grows a brain, euthanizes the mother and child monsters called the DHS (Department of Hopeless Stupidity) and the TSA, and returns not only airline and airport security but airports as well to the private sector where they belong (none of which are likely to happen anytime soon), I urge all Americans to vote with their feet and their wallets and travel by any possible alternative to the airlines whenever possible until the aforementioned demand is met. I guarantee you that it won’t take long for the pain in the industry’s own wallet to make itself acutely felt and that we’ll very soon be seeing airline industry lobbyists on C-SPAN begging congress [yes, that’s a lower-case “c”] to use common sense. Wouldn’t that make for some really friendly skies?