by Ari Armstrong, February 19, 2002
Advocates of the free market often fail because they let their opponents define socialism as capitalism. The failure of the allegedly capitalist system provides justification for the imposition of a socialist system. Generally, the reality is that the initial system failed precisely because it was already socialistic. This is precisely the case with nationalized airport "security."
True, airport screeners did not work directly for the state; they worked for nominally private companies. But these nominally private companies were directly controlled by a maze of federal rules. The proper term for state control of nominally private property is "fascism." Fascism is one of the major variants of socialism, the other entailing direct government ownership of an industry. Unfortunately, when nominally private companies are forced to operate by national standards, those standards become both the lower and upper boundary of performance. In practice, government standards often serve as industry excuses.
It should come to no surprise to us that the "old" screening system didn't work very well. Not only did we hear numerous news reports about people slipping weapons past "security," we heard numerous horror stories of misconduct. For instance, the Rocky Mountain News reported February 9 (1B), "Gay Unglesby says she walked down the jetway at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to her Denver-bound flight in tears Dec. 26, after a male Argenbright screener's frisking went way over the line. The kind of groping Unglesby says she endured can be found in Colorado's criminal code under the description for minor sexual assault."
But do we really expect to fare much better under a (more) nationalized system? Apparently some people do. One woman told the News for a February 18 story, "I think it's great. I don't care how long it takes as long as my family is safe." Similarly, Fox News reported February 17 (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,45810,00.html), "On the first day the government took responsibility for airport security, some passengers noticed extra vigilance and felt reassured by the change. Federal officials pledged Sunday to protect travelers and treat them with courtesy." Ah, a kinder, gentler federal agent. What a relief! One person said, "It's the appropriate role for the government to play. The airlines have been shown to be lax in the past." Another said, "It's just for show. But if it makes people feel good its worthwhile."
In the past, national meddling with currency led to a failure of the currency and a nationalization of currency. National meddling in health care has led to a break down of the health system which currently seems to be leading to a nationalization of health care. No doubt, by the time the government gets through destroying the health market, people will sigh in relief as federal agents socialize the entire health industry.
The federal government should never have gotten involved at all in the transportation industry. Airports, airlines, and air controllers should always have been completely, actually private. According to the Constitution, the only way the federal government may become involved with transportation is by establishing "post Roads." Even that was a dumb idea, but is it too much to ask that the national government abide by the national constitution?
The libertarian solution is to restore Gay Unglesby's right to pursue legal sanctions against the criminal who violated her person. The libertarian solution is to allow airports and airlines to compete on security measures -- and suffer the full legal and financial consequences if they fail. But the libertarian solution is not likely be enacted in the near future. Today, many literally cannot conceive of a free market. When the only options many can even imagine are indirect socialism and direct socialism, we're bound to get one or the other.