A PhD at a US think tank has proposed privatizing the TSA as the answer to air travel security. In an opinion piece, Robert P. Murphy gives all the "free market" reasons that private security would work. After all, government always fails.
I may be a bit dumb, and perhaps missing something, but his reasoning of how turning over air travel security would actually improve things strikes me as a poster child why these free market worshipers will complete the destruction of the US.
First, I am no fan of the TSA or the draconian security techniques in place in the US. Our regular air travels in the rest of the world have shown us that security need not be as oppressive as it is in the US. In my view, and that of the Mrs., a retired major airline executive who knows a bit about the business, TSA has embarked on a “Zero Defects”, “Zero Risk” course that it simply ludicrous. So I am not in any way writing in defense of TSA’s recent issues.
Murphy sees airline security as a simple exercise in free market operation. Airlines could employ any screening technique they desire, and should an airline’s aircraft be used by a terrorist, the airline would be legally liable for the damages. Of course, the airline could “take out large insurance policies, just as surgeons must carry malpractice insurance.” What Murphy doesn’t address is that malpractice claims, covered by insurance, have not been shown to reduce malpractice. In fact, he and his right wing buddies say that malpractice liability only results in higher medical costs. Further, is the screening for the purpose of limiting monetary damages or loss of human and limb? Screening is safety insurance before the fact, not monetary loss coverage after the fact.
My second immediate thought was his statement that “No one can say what security techniques would develop in a truly free market. That's actually the whole point: We need entrepreneurs to experiment and discover new approaches.” Yup, just like sub-prime mortgages, CDOs, Blackwater and the lot. I would also mention that those 19 guys with box cutters were screened by private contractors, not TSA employees. They boarded fights at small airports, where they determined that the screening in place was sufficiently lax to let them pass into the system armed with their “weapons”. Once inside security in the boondocks, they had a free pass throughout the system.
Now, from a purely business standpoint, leaving screening up to each and every airline means that at an airport such as JFK, where over 70 airlines have operations, many of which are only one arrival and departure per day, would be an interesting affair under the Murphy Plan. What would be the cost of 70+ different screening operations? How would “damage liability” be sorted out if airlines shared a screening operation? If the screening operator was a contractor, how would an airline be liable for contractor errors. Could Carrier B require re-screening of passengers connecting from a flight on Carrier A. After all, Murphy says the airline who’s aircraft is used by a terrorist becomes liable. What about checked bags that are transferred between airlines?
Since “free market” businesses generally seek to minimize costs, how could screening “quality” be assured? Keep in mind that Murphy sees the cost of screening being included in ticket prices, so the flying public will pay for the cost of an airline’s screening and liability insurance. In markets where there is only one or two carriers, will the consumer have a choice between Murphy’s two models of intrusiveness versus price. Will they even have service?
Murphy and his fellow travelers live in an “all or nothing at all” universe. In their view, there is little or no need for government, as the private, for-profit sector can do everything better. Alan Greenspan finally had to admit that the free markets were indeed capable of decisions that would be in their worst interest.
Well, the following can be gleaned from this article and Murphy’s bio. 1) He knows absolutely nothing about the transportation industry. 2) He has never run nor been employed in a “free market” business in his life 3) As an academician, he has never achieved permanent (tenured) employment 4) He has never held a position that has had to produce a profit. 5) has stated in his writings that "my ethical beliefs are informed by my Christian faith, and I am a firm believer in natural law."
When are people like Murphy going to figure it out? I'm not sure they ever will.