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February 8 2011

30 Ideas for 30 Days: Day 23

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

The Transportation Security Administration is one of the branches of the federal government that the public interacts with most frequently. But are their tactics the most effective way to protect Americans? 

Suggestion #23: Privatize airport screenings.

On Friday, TSA director John Pistole announced that TSA employees would be allowed to unionize. Unfortunately, the TSA is already an unaccountable bureaucracy with little transparency and virtually no complaint procedure. Travelers are in a vulnerable position – they’re already on a tight time schedule, and don’t have the luxury of complaining to a supervisor for fear of being detained and missing their flight. (Let’s not overlook the questionable-at-best naked scans/ groping procedures recently instituted either.)

Its incentive structure is to prevent repeats of past attacks – banning liquids over 3oz, and scanning shoes – as opposed to predicting and preventing future attacks. Weapons are still getting through the system. Who’s caught, and stopped, recent terror attacks? Not the TSA, but rather, fellow passengers and vigilant citizens.

Unionization is likely to further ossify these flaws and insulate the bureaucracy from new procedures and reforms. Look how receptive the U.S. Post Office is to new changes! Or how public school teachers are disciplined for their misdeeds! Or what happens when you try to record the police! Senator Jim DeMint has long been sounding the alarm over the unionization issue – I recommend checking out his post at RedState.com from last year.

Of course, if private companies handled airport security, the screening process could be performed far more efficiently – and innovatively – than the government would. Businesses would have an incentive to get the job done well – and to invest in the newest, and best, equipment. Alas, the federal government has thwarted this, by recently announcing that airports would no longer have the option of switching to private security contractors (effectively enforcing the TSA’s monopoly on touching your junk).

To keep America’s airports on the cutting edge of security procedures, let private companies screen passengers. TSA can play a role in overseeing the industry, but scale back the bureaucracy (which would save a lot of money!) and let businesses compete to provide the best service at the lowest cost.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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