After 9/11, the U.S. Congress created the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. America went to war, overtly and covertly, in several countries. Nearly $8 trillion was spent on what is called "security," Chris Hellman of the National Priorities Project estimates.
Was it worth it?
Yes, in many ways, says author Ann Coulter. No, says Reason magazine editor Matt Welch. Both will be guests on my Fox Business show tonight.
There's no reason at all that the bureaucratization of security is going to make us any more safe," Welch said. "All we have to do is go on an airplane ... to see that there's a difference between security and security theater, between federalizing a problem and actually solving the problem."
Coulter thinks the government got lots of things right.
"Whatever liberals screamed bloody murder about was very important on the war on terrorism," she said. "I think Iraq was a crucial part ... ." Welch dissented.
"We're on the verge of bankruptcy. ... We are at the sort of tipping point of imperial overstretch."
Imperial overstretch? Welch has a point. Politicians talk about tight budgets, but National Defense magazine recently ran this headline: "Homeland Security Market Is Vibrant Despite Budget Concerns." I fear this is the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about. Military contractors collude with politicians to keep the money flowing.
I blame the politicians. The contractors just do what they're supposed to do. The politicians are supposed to spend our money well. They don't.
After 9/11, the Senate voted 100 to zero to federalize airport security. Then-Sen. Tom Daschle said, "You can't professionalize if you don't federalize."
Nonsense. Before TSA was created, private contractors paid airport inspectors not much more than minimum wage. They weren't very good. Now we spend five times as much, and they're still not very good.
Today even the TSA knows that private security is better. In one of its own tests, its screeners in Los Angeles missed 75 percent of explosives planted by inspectors. In San Francisco, one of the few cities allowed to have privately managed security, screeners missed 20 percent.
In a reasonable world, the government would disband the TSA and
move to a private competitive system.
But we live in a Big Government world.
Randolph Bourne, who opposed U.S. entry into World War I, said, "War is the health of the state." He meant that in war, government grows in power and prestige—and freedom shrinks. As Robert Higgs documents in Crisis and Leviathan, government never recedes to its prewar dimensions.
Shortly after Sept. 11, Sen. Charles Schumer declared that the "era of a shrinking federal government is over." This was more nonsense. The government hadn't been shrinking. But for politicians like Schumer, 9/11 was an excuse to take more power. Price was no object.