Alex and some of the internet are noting that airline security might cost lives and does cost liberty. Yglesias asks one counterfactual: How many airplanes would be “blown up by terrorists” if there were no airline security?
I might have asked instead how many airplanes would be flown into skyscrapers and nuclear power plants (big propaganda rewards available), but I have another counterfactual that is more econ-oriented: What security protocols would a purely private air travel system enforce?
I suspect that if security were up to the private sector it would be quite stringent. Airlines and airports would compete partly on safety, and as we all know
, people overestimate the risks of air travel. It’s possible that private sector inspections would be even more invasive, less respectful: Would an airline want the reputation as the company that lost passengers–or one of the best surf spots
in California–because they were afraid of offending an elderly lady?
I say no. If you value personal autonomy at airports (a big if) you should probably devote your efforts to weakening TSA, not introducing laissez faire air security.
I often think about these words by Alex
, on the related issue of competitive governments:
Competitive law appears to increase efficiency but it’s less clear that competition among governments gives rise to a libertarian world. Homeowner associations, for example, often impose stricter zoning regulations than cities. You could say that the system as a whole is more libertarian, but no one lives in the system as a whole.