Rand Paul Takes on the TSA

Rand Paul has introduced legislation to rein in the TSA. There are two bills:

One bill would require that the mostly federalized program be turned over to private screeners and allow airports ­ with Department of Homeland Security approval ­ to select companies to handle the work.

This seems to be a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the economic incentives involved here, combined with magical thinking that a market solution solves all. In airport screening, the passenger isn’t the customer. (Technically he is, but only indirectly.) The airline isn’t even the customer. The customer is the U.S. government, which is in the grip of an irrational fear of terrorism.

It doesn’t matter if an airport screener receives a paycheck signed by the Department of the Treasury or Private Airport Screening Services, Inc. As long as a terrorized government—one that needs to be seen by voters as “tough on terror” and wants to stop every terrorist attack, regardless of the cost, and is willing to sacrifice all for the illusion of security—gets to set the security standards, we’re going to get TSA-style security.

We can put the airlines, either directly or via airport fees, in charge of security, but that has problems in the other direction. Airlines don’t really care about terrorism; it’s rare, the costs to the airline are relatively small (remember that the government bailed the industry out after 9/11), and the rest of the costs are externalities and are borne by other people. So if airlines are in charge, we’re likely to get less security than makes sense.

It makes sense for a government to be in charge of airport security—either directly or by setting standards for contractors to follow, I don’t care—but we’ll only get sensible security when the government starts behaving sensibly.

The second bill would permit travelers to opt out of pat-downs and be rescreened, allow them to call a lawyer when detained, increase the role of dogs in explosive detection, let passengers “appropriately object to mistreatment,” allow children 12 years old and younger to avoid “unnecessary pat-downs” and require the distribution of the new rights at airports.

That legislation also would let airports decide to privatize if wanted and expand TSA’s PreCheck program for trusted travelers.

This is a mixed bag. Airports can already privatize security—SFO has done so already—and TSA’s PreCheck is being expanded. Opting out of pat downs and being rescreened only makes sense if the pat down request was the result of an anomaly in the screening process; my guess is that rescreening will just produce the same anomaly and still require a pat down. The right to call a lawyer when detained is a good one, although in reality we passengers just want to make our flights; that’s why we let ourselves be subjected to this sort of treatment at airports. And the phrase “unnecessary pat-downs” all comes down to what is considered necessary. If a 12-year-old goes through a full-body scanner and a gun-shaped image shows up on the screen, is the subsequent pat down necessary? What if it’s a long and thin image? What if he goes through a metal detector and it beeps? And who gets to decide what’s necessary? If it’s the TSA, nothing will change.

And dogs: a great idea, but a logistical nightmare. Dogs require space to eat, sleep, run, poop, and so on. They just don’t fit into your typical airport setup.

The problem isn’t government-run airport security, full-body scanners, the screening of children and the elderly, or even a paucity of dogs. The problem is that we were so terrorized that we demanded our government keep us safe at all costs. The problem is that our government was so terrorized after 9/11 that it gave an enormous amount of power to our security organizations. The problem is that the security-industrial complex has gotten large and powerful—and good at advancing its agenda—and that we’ve scared our public officials into being so scared that they don’t notice when security goes too far.

I too want to rein in the TSA, but the only way to do that is to change the TSA’s mission. And the only way to do that is to change the government that gives the TSA its mission. We need to refuse to be terrorized, and we need to elect non-terrorized legislators.

But that’s a long way off. In the near term, I’d like to see legislation that forces the TSA, the DHS, and anyone working in counterterrorism, to justify their systems, procedures, and expenditures with cost-benefit analyses.

This is me on that issue:

An even more meaningful response to any of these issues would be to perform a cost-benefit analysis. These sorts of analyses are standard, even with regard to rare risks, but the TSA (and, in fact, the whole Department of Homeland Security) has never conducted them on any of its programmes or technologies. It’s incredible but true: he TSA does not analyse whether the security measures it deploys are worth deploying. In 2010, the National Academies of Science wrote a pretty damning report on this topic.

Filling in where the TSA and the DHS have left a void, academics have performed some cost-benefit analyses on specific airline-security measures. The results are pretty much what you would expect: the security benefits of most post-9/11 security changes do not justify the costs.

More on security cost-benefit analyses here and here. It’s not going to magically dismantle the security-industrial complex, eliminate the culture of fear, or imbue our elected officials with common sense—but it’s a start.

EDITED TO ADD (7/13): A rebuttal to my essay. It’s too insulting to respond directly to, but there are points worth debating.

Posted on June 20, 2012 at 1:19 PM50 Comments


Snarki, child of Loki June 20, 2012 1:33 PM

Just designate Rand Paul as the official “guinea pig” for whenever TSA modifies screening procedures, and it would be a big plus.

Okay, that’s just picking on one annoying person. So instead, just automatically put all members of congress on the “enhanced screening” list.

Then we’ll find out what is truly critical to security, and what is not.

John David Galt June 20, 2012 2:29 PM

I can see two ways to stop the government from insisting on TSA-style search procedures.

One is for us to elect enough people like Rand Paul to get an abolition bill through Congress.

The second is for enough outraged people to scream rape as Amy Alkon did (or grope back, as another lady did this week). When juries start ruling against the TSA, maybe its members will feel the need to find honorable jobs.

bcs June 20, 2012 2:37 PM

What I’d (somewhat counter-intuitively) love to see is a TSA director that publicly states that their intent is to ratchets up security fast enough and far enough that they are either they get fired or they are ordered to back off. (What would happen if they posted a timeline that includes cavity searches of all passengers in 6 months?)

The point would be to create an upper bound on what is wanted and disprove that “more is always better”.

Granite26 June 20, 2012 2:40 PM

Consider the difference in attitude between a private security officer and a government backed TSA agent. Even if the government is the ultimate setter of standards for a variety of companies, the company that gets hired is the one that achieves the government mandated security level while still maintaining a level of respect for passengers. TSA agents have no such pressure to treat passengers well.

Also, there is some debate over how ‘already free to use private security’ airports are.

Bob Dobbs June 20, 2012 2:43 PM

“This seems to be a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the economic incentives involved here… Airlines don’t really care about terrorism”.

Sure they do. Passenger/customer safety impacts airlines’ reputations and consequently, their bottom line.

If anyone has a negative incentive to reduce terrorism it’s government bureaucrats. A perpetual state of fear results in a perpetual state of control.

Tom Davis June 20, 2012 2:54 PM

I think the idea behind privatizing screeners is not to bring market forces into play, rather it is to bring a level of personal accountability to the screeners for their actions. Government agents are not liable for their actions except to their bureaucratic superiors who themselves are not liable either.

Doug Browne June 20, 2012 2:55 PM

Personally, I don’t believe it’ll be any better if it’s outsourced to Halliburton/Qe/Whatever-they’re-called-this-week.

Lawyer June 20, 2012 2:59 PM

“The second bill would permit travelers to … call a lawyer when detained”

We don’t need a bill for that. That’s already part of the Sixth Amendment. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Miranda attaches the moment a person is detained by any government official. If TSA agents were to detain you and ask you “Where did you get this money?” and you said “It’s from a bank I just robbed” that statement would inadmissible at trial unless the government had issued a Miranda warning.

The 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments apply to the Federal (and sometimes state) Government, not private individuals, so if the TSA agent was a private security guard, he would not be required to read Miranda. Ironically, you have less constitutional protection with a private screening firm.

Bob T June 20, 2012 3:03 PM

Yes, I’m sure that congress is going to step right up and approve these bills. Yeah right.

The bad thing about stories like these is that it gives people the false hope that freedom and liberty still have a chance in our society. More people who loved liberty are dying off and the new timid generation is growing in numbers.

De Tocqueville had it right almost 200 years ago.

Picador June 20, 2012 3:24 PM

These proposals make no sense. If Paul wants a libertarian-style solution to the TSA’s overbearing and unnecessary screening measures, a simple one is staring him in the face: cut their funding by 75%.

lairdb June 20, 2012 3:26 PM

Granite26 is right — and so is Bruce.

No, a market solution will not solve all, but it has the potential to address the largest “soft” issue: courtesy. A market solution mandates the existence of a market, which engenders competition, which means that the market-based providers will compete on the parts that are variable, e.g. pax satisfaction, price, etc.

The standards may still be irrational but at least the playing field will be level — today, the G owns the ball, and no-one else is allowed to play.

Rationality/irrationality of the standards is a different problem.

Charlie June 20, 2012 3:29 PM

Even if people like Rand Paul really intended market forces to reign in misguided TSA procedures, it wouldn’t work. This is mainly because the system in place around airport security (and public institutions in general) is bureaucratic and not profit-seeking. The term bureaucracy here is not meant in a disparaging way. It is simply the reality that institutions of this kind do not respond to market forces — they simply aren’t there. Performance (cost saving or otherwise) is not rewarded, only following the rules is. Paul would do well to review his Ludwig von Mises.

Jenny R June 20, 2012 3:34 PM

The only thing privatizing does is reduce the number of people who are officially government employees. We already have poor TSA hiring, training and reward practices. Now add a layer that demands sucking profit out of the system and you are virtually guaranteed less accountability, worse pay and thus worse performance. I agree that first bill is a crock.

Max June 20, 2012 3:45 PM

Dogs require space to eat, sleep, run, poop, and so on. They just don’t fit into your typical airport setup.

Customs officials in South Africa seem to manage just fine (and I’m sure I’ve seen dogs in customs in other countries too).

gbrown June 20, 2012 4:07 PM

Cost-benefit analysis might indeed produce different results, but it will never happen. We never apply cost-benefit analysis to enforcement issues, and the business of TSA is enforcement, not security.

Oliver Jones June 20, 2012 4:37 PM


Given that the purpose of the TSA screening system is security theater, I wonder if this privatization effort could result in jobs for theater people. Think of it! One airport could have security guys in fatigues with AKs. Another could do the Casablanca look with Claude Rains lookalikes saying “I’m shocked, shocked, that you are carrying a large bottle of water,” while a waiter hands him a bottle of whiskey. Another airport, preferably one used by many elected representatives, could go for the Minority Report or Brazil look for their security teams.

This could be fun. Oh, wait, flying is supposed to be boring. Never mind.

DoctorT June 20, 2012 4:43 PM

“… It makes sense for a government to be in charge of airport security…”

Yeah, in an ideal world. But, if we had an ideal world, we wouldn’t need airport security.

My solution is much simpler:

  1. Get rid of the TSA and make airlines responsible for security.

  2. If a plane is downed by a bomb smuggled onboard by a worker, airport trespasser, or passenger, then the airline must pay ten million dollars to the families of each dead passenger. That’s a big enough incentive for the airlines to tighten plane security and effectively screen for bombs.

  3. Secure cockpit doors and the responses of good passengers (who will be allowed to carry pen knives, scissors, knitting needles, etc.) will suffice to control the hijacking problem.

PrometheeFeu June 20, 2012 5:45 PM

While there most definitely are some externalities from security screening, a big chunk of the benefits are clearly internalized. Not getting blown up is clearly a part of the service that I purchase as an airline customer. You can bet that I will not be flying with an airline that does not take adequate security precautions and I don’t think many people would be likely to do so either. Airlines care about me not flying with them and so they care about security.

Yes, the whole flying bomb scenario exists. But if you really think that’s a problem, just subsidize airport security. Or have the government red-team the airlines and fine them for security failures.

PrometheeFeu June 20, 2012 5:49 PM

I should also add that if you believe it is magical thinking to believe airlines will take precautions to prevent their planes and customers getting blown up, how is it not magical thinking to believe rationally ignorant voters will suddenly start voting rationally?

Jordan Brown June 20, 2012 6:06 PM

Unfortunately, market forces aren’t really enough, because there’s really only one security perimeter covering most of the country. If security at Fly-By-Night Airlines at Podunk Airport is weak, villains can enter the system there, fly to Big City Airport, and transfer to a Trustworthy Airlines flight without having to go through a security check again. To make airport-specific security work as a competitive factor, people would have to be re-screened on transfer. To make airline-specific security work, each airline’s gates would have to be isolated from the other gates.

Simon June 20, 2012 6:17 PM

Re: dogs

I don’t know about other countries, but New Zealand makes good use of dogs for detecting agricultural threats (fruit and other pest bearing vectors) in passenger transit areas, as well as the usual drug and explosive sniffing dogs out the back.

me June 20, 2012 6:37 PM

I like dogs and it’s cool to be friends with them.

Yes, they do S&R and leading the blind and drug/bomb sniffing and security barking and growling and policing ( where they are sometimes allowed to use their teeth and chomp on a bad guy ) etc etc, but it seems to me Bruce is referring more to the line processing at gates and in that case, I don’t think it’s the best use of dogs.

Besides, why make the poor dogs have to sniff at a bunch of sweaty, angry humans who step on paws with their big, floppy feet?

Bruce Clement June 20, 2012 7:02 PM

@Simon et al

http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/biosec/camp-acts/detector-dog/history Government page on the history of the use of detector dogs. Covers not only their historical use in New Zealand but also some international precedents:

“Beagle Brigade programmes are currently in use in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As expertise in the training of dogs for such specialised tasks becomes more widely available, expectations are other countries will follow in suit in the vital pursuit for the protection of agriculture from foreign pests and diseases.”

AlanS June 20, 2012 7:23 PM

@Bruce “…we need to elect non-terrorized legislators”

Are the legislators really terrorized? Isn’t whipping up fear and loathing what legislators do to get whatever it is they want? It’s a strategy as old as the hills.

Karl June 20, 2012 7:37 PM

Cost-benefit analysis could be measured in money or lives – the amount of time spend in ques adds up to life times.

I consider the TSA (The Stasi Americana) security theater – I don’t think it really does anything productive.

First, given enough attempts they can still get something through to bring down a plane.

Second, they are assured that the honest passengers have nothing to defend themselves with.

On final point: Why terrorism a problem now and not in the past? I don’t understand why people don’t realize that supporting the dictator king of Saudi Arabia with arms and intelligence to suppress opposition might not produce some blow-back that results in attacks against Americans?

Clive Robinson June 20, 2012 8:54 PM

@ Bruce,

Slightly off topic:

A small snippet of news from the London evening Standard indicates that at UK airport Gatwick women are being “Strip Searched” disproportionatly more than men.

According to the article,

John Vine, the Government’s inspector of immigration found a series of irregularities in the way in which searches were being conducted. Last summer 54 per cent of women stopped by Border Force officers were strip searched. For men the figure was less than 20 per cent.

As always with UK News Papers treat this with a degree of caution untill you get a look at the raw numbers (it could could be that the same number of men and women were strip searched but two and a half times as many men were stopped).

No One Special June 21, 2012 12:33 AM


Have you seen John Stossel’s take on this? The private screeners always seems to outperform TSA in prohibited items collection, and increase passenger flow and content. Just my take, God bless Wackenhut and Golan (I’m sure there are others)

Susan June 21, 2012 1:19 AM

I started seriously question Rand Paul’s motives in 2011 when he supposedly “smacked down” John Pistole in a hearing about a year ago. It was after the small daughter of constituents got frisked at the airport.

When I watched a video of the hearing, I felt like I was watching a priest read the bible to Satan. Or a sheep lecturing a wolf on the benefits of a vegetable-based diet.

And it was about as effective.

A lot of talk. Nobody held accountable.

If Rand Paul believes in the constitution and our liberties, why do we need a passenger bill of rights?

And rather than working to unterrorize government, why do I get the feeling that Congress is trying to wash its hands of the problem by dumping it on the regional airports?

Many people blindly follow Rand Paul and think he can do no wrong, without scrutinizing him like every other politician deserves to be scrutinized. That scares me.

QnJ1Y2U June 21, 2012 2:15 AM

@No One Special
Don’t know how much weight we can put behind a John Stossel report. I remember seeing a follow-up on some stories he did on Chile’s social security privatization, and there was some significant cherry-picking in the data there. And now he’s on Fox News …

It seems like it would be pretty easy to cherry-pick data for this as well. Also, those same companies are busy lobbying for privatization right now, so they have an incentive to put on a good show; that incentive would vanish after the legislation passes.

Mix in the small sample size and the issues with scaling something like this, and I don’t think you can use the current state to draw many conclusions about how Rand’s proposal would play out.

Muffin June 21, 2012 5:13 AM

“And dogs: a great idea, but a logistical nightmare. Dogs require space to eat, sleep, run, poop, and so on. They just don’t fit into your typical airport setup.”

Not to mention that dogs aren’t machines. It’s easy to think that dogs, like human workers, can be put on daily 8-hour shifts and still do a decent job, but it doesn’t work like that. Sniffing out explosives is a game for dogs, yes, but it’s also hard work, and they can’t and won’t do it like that. The idea that you could use dogs to systematically test air passengers’ luggage at airports is completely at odds with reality.

Bardi June 21, 2012 6:41 AM

Introducing the “profit motive” into airport security only works in a competitive environment, in an environment where there is a clear customer and product/service relationship. There is only an indirect one at the airport.

Unfortunately, as with most any “out-sourced” issue, accountability becomes more illusive, if not gone all together. Shortly after 11Sep01, when airport security was still privatized, a directive came down that a certain percentage of people going through the system were to be subject to enhanced search techniques. Under privatization, the security firms quickly found out that the vast majority, if not all, of those targeted for enhanced features should be airport/airline personnel because they would rather not complain/sue. I remember seeing six pilots spread-eagle against a wall while not airline/airport personnel zipped right through. That was not right.

If one must have security, I would rather that a government group accomplish this task so that they would, ideally, be accountable to our Constitution rather than the profit motive.

Shelley Adrienne Mimi Belsky June 21, 2012 7:07 AM

Currently the law is NO law.
If a T.S.A. agent is “unsure” of an individual they can do whatever they damned well want (shot of actually killing or physically injuring that person, mental scarring doesn’t count). Example: while going through checkpoint, I was not only sent through the imaging device, but had my breasts summarily groped by a T.S.A. agent. Now I admit that I am a male to female transsexual, BUT I had all state approved documents (stamped and notarized by the court of the state of Minnesota). This did not seem to matter. Perhaps if I wasn’t a 48DD they might not have made me go through this. Never the less, according ti the current laws, they had every right in the world.

vsiliy pupkin June 21, 2012 7:54 AM

“As long as a terrorized government — one that needs to be seen by voters as “tough on terror,” wants to stop every terrorist attack regardless of the cost, and is willing to sacrifice all for the i l l u s i o n of security — gets to set the security standards, we’re going to get TSA-style security”. Exactly!
Cost-benefit analysis can’t incorporate illusions in decision making. Elected officials set measures of creating illusion of safety first (just to match emotional decision making during next election). And as posted earlier,’Most of our thinking is emotionally based. We then use logic to justify our actions’ (David J. Lieberman, Ph.D)

Dirk Praet June 21, 2012 9:07 AM

Congratulations to Rand Paul for introducing the concept of “legislation theatre”.

Like several other posters I don’t think it’s a particularly good idea to outsource security related matters to private companies whose only goal is the making of profit, not the common good. To me, security is in fact one of the core responsibilities of a government apparatus. As to the second bill, I stand with @Lawyer on the isue.

atk June 21, 2012 11:58 AM

Does noone here understand how to incrementally pass legislation that takes tiny steps at a time, rather than solving all the world’s problems at once?!?

When legislators want to change things, but fight an uphill battle, they make small changes. So small that nobody could complain that the changes hurt anything. As more and more changes are made, over a long period of time, laws are restructured to a new focus. This results in minimal opposition from the the up-hill. On the other hand, the idiots who think solutions must address every possible facet of a problem, not just act as small improvements or foundation for future improvements, come out of the woodwork and call the submitter an idiot, incompetent, or similar. Unkbeknownst to these all-or-nothingers, this does manage to support the proposal. After all, if the people who you eant to subjigate are against a law, then it must help subjugate them. However, it would help more to voice in favor of mi or improvements- . this creates pressure on the hill, and may make additional panderers – erm, legislators – join the cause. This makes the battle of improvement easier, in turn allowing it to mive faster.

So what do gou eant to see, status quo or small improvements?

boog June 21, 2012 11:59 AM

I too find the phrase “unnecessary pat-downs” interesting. Bruce’s concerns over how the necessity of a pat-down would be determined aside, I’m confused by the implication that, while the bill seems to admit some pat-downs are unnecessary, people over 12 years of age would still be required to endure them. Shouldn’t everyone be exempt from unnecessary pat-downs, if they are in fact unnecessary?

arguethefacts June 21, 2012 12:01 PM

“And dogs: a great idea, but a logistical nightmare. Dogs require space to eat, sleep, run, poop, and so on. They just don’t fit into your typical airport setup.”

Seriously? You can spend $70,000 for a trained dog and handler that can find smell explosives even if they are in someone’s body or body cavity. Something a $350,000 strip scanner can’t.

A trained dog will let you know when it needs to poop, or you can take them for walkies ever few hours. Have several places outside the terminal for the dogs to poop, and then pick it up with a plastic baggie and throw it away. New Yorkers do this every day. An airport can easily do it.

The dog can run after it’s finished for the day when its owner takes it home or it goes back to the kennel where it’s kept with a running area attached to the kennel.

As to food? Ever hear of a bowl of food and water?

None of this takes up as much space as the strip scanners. Multiply the area of a body scanner by how many are in the air port. You don’t need a fraction of these to accommodate a dog that can do the job better. Also, you only need one handler for the dog (and those taking care of them in the kennel). You need several people to use the strip scanners.

boog June 21, 2012 12:32 PM


Does noone here understand how to incrementally pass legislation that takes tiny steps at a time, rather than solving all the world’s problems at once?!?

Tiny steps in the right direction are fine. Tiny steps in the wrong direction or no direction are not fine.

You complain about “all-or-nothingers”, but I’m not sure to whom you’re referring. The complaints I’ve read here seem to be that the proposed bills demonstrate a failed understanding of the problem, not that the bills don’t “address every possible facet of a problem”. And shouldn’t we expect our legislators to understand the problems they’re trying to solve, uphill battle or otherwise?

Herr Fuchs June 22, 2012 3:47 AM

The widespread use of detection dogs might be a bad idea due to downfalls in other respects. Researchers tested detection dogs and their human handlers. The design was to test the influence of handlers on their dogs. The results suggested, that animals reflect the behaviour of human handlers (Lit L, Schweitzer JB, Oberbauer AM. (2011)).

Thus research dogs might create a lot of false positives.

Study design:
“Eighteen drug and/or explosive detection dog/handler teams each completed two sets of four brief search scenarios (conditions). Handlers were falsely told that two conditions contained a paper marking scent location (human influence).”

Lit L, Schweitzer JB, Oberbauer AM. (2011): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21225441

SnallaBolaget June 22, 2012 4:39 AM


This must be the least thought through post you’ve published in a long, long time.

I don’t even know where to start; there are too many errors, misconceptions and ignorance points here to do in a comment. Very disappointed.

atk June 22, 2012 8:40 AM

@boog: Please explain how Rand Paul’s bills will harm us. And provide evidence of previous harm, not just thought experiments (for each thought experiment you create showing harm, I can create one showing improvement). What are Paul’s words – his reasoning – and why is that “the wrong direction”?

All I see is a lot of knee jerk reaction because the solution isn’t exactly what particular people want.

boog June 25, 2012 8:54 AM


Please explain how Rand Paul’s bills will *harm* us.

No. If you’ll recall, I was calling you out, not the other way around. You seemed so sure that Rand Paul’s bills would be “a tiny step” in the right direction – I’m the one who’s unconvinced. Use this opportunity to try to convince me, rather than forcing a position onto me and demanding that I defend it.

Former Tech June 27, 2012 10:20 PM

I gave a feeling that Rand Paul understands perfectly what the problem is, and it isn’t the government’s irrational fear of terrorism. It’s the government’s need to be very publicly seen to be doing something about terrorism, whether it works or not. Like the old NRA commercial with the politician saying “don’t tell me what will work, tell me what will sell.” He then introduces a gun control measure.

The TSA, and large factions of the government know full well that nothing they do will be particularly effective. Mr Paul knows it as well. Those pushing for the ever tighter restrictions will not listen, and an intelligent bill for restructuring the TSA has no hope of passing.

The privatization of the TSA isn’t a “we’ll fix it with the private sector” idea, it’s a “if were going to do something incredibly useless anyway, the private sector can do it as well or better for about 30% of the cost” idea.

Michael Shigorin June 28, 2012 6:38 AM

Thanks, Bruce.

Another note on dogs: IIRC the training to detect drugs and/or explosives incurs damage on them shortening their dog lives, just imagine what a green gang would have to say on that.

Zeev July 15, 2012 6:57 AM


After reading both your essay and SnallaBolaget “rebuttal” I can say that you two are just trying to solve different problems, and this is where the disagreement lies.

All Rand is trying to do is to find a more efficient and passenger-friendly way to implement the same government policies, which you (rightly IMO) consider ridiculous. It does nothing to make the policies more sensible, besides some minor tweaks which are not very professional and may not stand the scrutiny.

But there are enough problems with the TSA even within the existing security policies – starting from the fact that they are not incentivised to improve on traveller’s experience, dignity and wait time.

I also have to point out that your quest to make government policies more sensible is somewhat hopeless, because government has natural incentives to show it is “doing all it can” and “protecting the citizens”, while not directly incurring the costs of its policies. So it will never behave sensibly – it has no reason to. Or, I should say, it is already behaving sensibly, if by that word you mean doing whatever it takes to get re-elected.

A market-based solution would include creating a player (likely an airline) for whom all externalities are internalized, and who will have to make rational economic decisions to prevent terrorism. We are light-years away from that though, because enough people will scream about “capitalists putting a dollar value on a human life”, which unfortunately happens anyway, whether we like it or not.

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