Privatize the Damned TSA Already!

Matt Welch calls for an end to federalized airport screening on Fox Business Network


The horror-show headlines are coming daily at this point. "Travelers sound off on nightmarish lines at Chicago airports," "TSA Head Apologizes to Chicago for Long Lines: 'I Don't Know What That Was," "TSA uproar spills into Congress." Getting through security lines at the airport is like waiting for the new ride at Universal Studios, only without the Butterbeer. Technocratic liberals are in open revolt at the embarrassing, obvious-to-all incompetence of the bureaucracy that Congress inexplicably willed into existence after 9/11, instead of simply mandating some new screening rules and letting skin-in-the-game airports figure out the best delivery systems.

On Fox Business Network's After the Bell program Friday, I declared that enough is enough: Privatize the sumbitch already:

For a thorough policy dive into how best to dismantle the Transportation Security Administration, read this great 2013 Reason Foundation report by Robert Poole and Shirley Ybarra.

Reason on the TSA here.

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  1. “We had a significant challenge in Chicago yesterday. I don’t know what that was. We’re fixing that,” Administrator Peter Neffenger said

    If you don’t know what that was, how the fuck can you fix it? Or did you mean “we’re finding out what the challenge was”?

    Either way, resign.

  2. It always amazes me that things aren’t consider real until there’s video.

  3. Government is just the name we give the line we’re all queued up in together.

  4. If, by “privatize” you mean “abolish the TSA” and let the airlines worry about security, then yes. If, however, you mean that the government should contract out this function, then no.

    1. Considering that there hasn’t been another major, or even minor, terrorist incident in years combined with the fact that the TSA regularly fails in catching dangerous objects smuggled in by security tests I’d say it would be safe to not only abolish the TSA but replace it with absolutely nothing.

      Reinforced cockpit doors and Air Marshalls seems to be enough combined with passengers foreknowledge of what will likely happen if they meekly submit to hijackers.

      1. In an actual free market, you’d have the “value” airlines doing no screening at all in return for low prices, and the security-focused airlines would charge for the security.

        Then when the value airline gets hijacked and hijackers fly planes into skyscrapers, the lawsuits will put the value airline out of business and customers would flock to the secure airline for awhile.

        Instead, the airlines got off without liability AND without having to charge for security of their planes/service. This shit didn’t just start after 9/11.

        1. No plane is going to be hijacked again because the passengers know what will happen and will not allow it. If passengers were unscreened, there would be enough knives and perhaps even small arms to guarantee it. Even without weapons, the passengers won’t allow it (a foot or shoe or belt is not “a dangerous weapon”, no matter how many times a DA claims it is in a charge).

          1. I’d assume some airlines would require their flight attendants to be strapped and retain marksmanship levels.

        2. And don’t forget, Uncle Sam wrote the airlines big fat checks after 9/11. Because.

      2. Considering that there hasn’t been another major, or even minor, terrorist incident in years combined with the fact that the TSA regularly fails in catching dangerous objects smuggled in by security tests I’d say it would be safe to not only abolish the TSA but replace it with absolutely nothing.

        Even if there had been another major terroist incident recently, and even if the TSA were effective, its job of violating people’s constitutional rights would still be unconstitutional and unethical. The TSA needs to be abolished no matter what the circumstances are.

  5. Someone on here, I forget who it was, made a great point about this. You can’t privatize it because no one wants to take on the liability.

    1. Not to mention that the only real people with skin in the game are airlines and airports. The airports aren’t exactly private and the airlines aren’t exactly the robust paragons of stability and efficiency that you’d want to push this mandatory security theater off on.

      It should probably be understood that this cannot, in any real way, be sustained at any level resembling it’s current state without massive amounts of State funds and/or that privatizing would (or should) be nearly synonymous with abolishing.

      I suppose the plan is to push it off on the airlines and then, when planes are grounded for one reason or another or the employees strike and a shutdown occurs, point to the fact that the private market doesn’t solve anything and then proceed to fuck things up further.

      1. The airports don’t have skin in the game. Nobody has hijacked an airport. Somebody could blow up a security queue at an airport, but that’s the fault of the security apparatus. The problem is the security apparatus has no skin in the game.

        The ones with skin in the game are
        1) The airlines
        2) The passengers
        3) The insurance companies

        EVERY ONE OF THEM is getting subsidized. That’s why it’s fucked up.

        Passengers like cheap air travel because somebody else is paying 80% of the cost. Airlines like the setup because the shitty security and customer service is on the government rather than them. Insurance companies like the setup because government is taking most of the liability.

        You could privatize the whole shebang. But you wouldn’t be flying coach for less than $400 one way.

        You want to fly round trip for $250? Fine – you still pay, only now you pay by waiting in line for hours or paying a premium in dollars and privacy by going through the express line.

        Americans want a socialist air travel system and that’s exactly what they have. For once government is giving people what they want.

        1. Passengers like cheap air travel because somebody else is paying 80% of the cost.

          While I certainly agree on the ‘free shit’ front, maybe I’m too young or naive about the issue but I don’t recall any Occupy Airports movement demanding air travel be subsidized and the Great American Road Trip has been a hallmark of the culture for 40+ yrs.

          Airlines, insurance, local municipalities, and the FedGov shuffled around $$, liability, and risk, then quoted a price to the consumer who generally accepted. Passengers may be culpable, but they aren’t willingly/knowingly guilty/complicit like the rest.

    2. You can’t privatize it because no one wants to take on the liability.

      A lot of government action seems to fall into this category. It will be sold with grandiose promises but ultimately ends up being “necessitated” by sovereign immunity. It never ceases to amaze me to see someone say the government must take action to correct externalities when the government exists primarily to ignore them.

  6. You seem to forget that main purpose for creating the TSA was to create another block of unionized federal government employees who can be counted on to vote for Democratic party candidates.

    1. I have fond memories of a former coworker saying, in the days when Congress debated the bills creating the TSA, that the government had to take over airport security because then there would be standards.

      I still chuckle when I think of that.

  7. … only without the Butterbeer.



    … Damn.

    1. Are they actually serving drinks in line for a ride? Do they have a busboy that follows with a piss jug?

      1. Piss boy, oh piss boy!
        Oui, oui, monsieur
        Yes, lots of it

  8. Pragmatically, one could suggest that just eliminating the “take your shoes off” portion of the ordeal would
    shorten the procedure considerably.

    1. I confess that when I’m forced to travel by air, I take my sweet time doing the security hokey-pokey. I want people to be pissed off at the bullshit, even thought most people are just going to ask for even MORE security theater.

  9. “Re”. “Re-privatize.”

    Security screening was originally the responsibility of the airports and airlines. And as Gilbert Martin points out, the Dems fought to nationalize the function to create a huge pool of new union workers. The compromise was that they wouldn’t be unionized.

    Simple solution: The TSA publishes requirements for airline security. Airlines and the airports figure out how to implement it. The TSA does verification and validation. Problem solved.

    1. The constituency for getting this done (other than airline passengers) would be local governments. The airport is usually a huge feather in the cap and source of lots of nepotism and contract-awarding that local pols love.

      1. The airport is usually a huge feather in the cap and source of lots of nepotism and contract-awarding that local pols love.

        And sometimes an opportunity for social signaling.

    2. How does that solve the problem? If the government forces private entities to violate people’s rights, I don’t see how that’s not a violation of the constitution. The private companies just become a de facto part of the government at that point.

      We need to get the government entirely out of the business of telling airlines and airports how to implement their security. At best, the government could publish security recommendations, but we all know that government recommendations are rarely optional.

  10. Is the TSA the only organization that can’t point at a single success story and still exist? Apparently not. Who needs probable cause for a search, after all? You’re clearly a criminal if you’re in a sporting event or airport, so FYTY.

    Also, privatizing something that necessarily violates a persons constitutional rights is probably not a great idea. The government definitely shouldn’t be doing it, but neither should the airlines. Unless of course we’re all admitting that the Bill of Rights is ‘outdated’ and needs to be ‘revised’, but in that instance there’s a constitutional procedure for ‘fixing’ it that apparently isn’t even being considered. I wonder why that is, hmm? Could it be that people wouldn’t be behind eroding search & warrant requirements as a baseline? Then why be for it in this instance?


    1. If the government is searching through your luggage looking for bombs and guns, then obviously they’ll end up wanting to search for drugs, money, checks, suspicious photos…..

      If the airlines do it, they’ll want to be as minimally intrusive and as convenient as possible. And nobody will be trying to co-opt them into the drug war or any other moral panic. They’ll invest in technology and techniques to maximize effectiveness while minimizing intrusiveness, because they don’t want their customers being pissed off. And they don’t want their planes and customers getting blown up.

      So incentives are aligned with passengers. This is not true for the government.

      1. Cyto- A disturbing number of TSA’s trumpeted “successes” involve things unrelated to weapons, explosives, and incendiaries. Drugs, cash, even someone impersonating military personnel was talked up in support of the Behavioral Detection Officers program.

      2. If you view it from the angle of someone is going to be violating you, I suppose it might as well be the airline itself instead of the government.

        I would prefer to not be violated at all, and I would agree that a private market would likely result in an airline that caters to people who don’t want to take their shoes off, be groped, and/or scanned and virtually disrobed by a total stranger for dubious security gains.

        I think we all know what the government considers ‘privatization’ and it involves outsourcing a thing to a crony while tightly mandating how they operate through one of their proxy agencies. While this isn’t what most people here would probably consider ‘privatization’ it’s certainly what it would actually look like in reality.

        1. Considering that you are entering private property – an airplane – the property owner has every right to do a cavity search on you if they want. If you don’t like it, use another airline. If enough people don’t like it, they go out of business.

          1. Also, the property owner is likely going to do whatever security methods his insurance company suggests to bring his premium down. The airline could certainly give relaxed security measures to loyal passengers – those that have demonstrated X years of membership in the loyalty program.

          2. That is specifically why I went out of my way to include this bit here:

            I think we all know what the government considers ‘privatization’ and it involves outsourcing a thing to a crony while tightly mandating how they operate through one of their proxy agencies. While this isn’t what most people here would probably consider ‘privatization’ it’s certainly what it would actually look like in reality.

            In todays America, you can have ‘private property’ or a ‘privately held business’ and still be essentially managed by the government. Airlines are, specifically, one of those exact types of institutions. Therefore they are not a private business, and therefore none of the typical arguments apply. Can the government force a ‘private business’ to violate your civil rights? Yes, yes they can. It’s an end run around constitutional protections under the illusion of private businesses discretion.

            1. TL;DR, at what point do you consider an industry nationalized, and therefore that industry has the same limitations as the government in their discretion to violate the Bill of Rights?

              1. Commercial airline travel in the US began as a nationalized industry. Same with trucking.

                1. You can’t have it both ways finger.

      3. I seem to recall that the TSA was only supposed to be checking for weapons when the concept was rolled out.

        Mission creep took less than a year, unsurprisingly.

  11. What fun. I get to fly soon. Thankfully I set up my trip so I only have to deal with the TSA once, on the way out. On the way back, no TSA at Amsterdam, arrive in Boston, clear customs and immigration, and walk out.

    1. DEG- The bad news is that TSA procedures are used by other countries for flights to the US, or at least were when I last flew from Frankfurt which has a separate section for US flights. I did get a lovely foot massage out of it though, since simply removing my hiking boots wasn’t enough.
      That may have changed since then.

      1. I think it depends on the airport. I flew out of Edinburgh a few weeks ago and it was pretty straightforward. There was a non-subtle interview check while checking my bags, then a metal detector. Didn’t need to remove shoes or laptops. I think my passport got checked once.

        On the other hand, in 2013 I flew out of Dublin and had the pre-flight immigration checkpoint. So I passed through the Irish security in a minute, then had to go through the stupid TSA check 20 minutes later.

    2. DEG- come to think of it, I had to remove my shoes AND was selected for secondary screening including wiping my hands for explosives flying back from Jamaica (Montego Bay) in 2014.

      1. Amsterdam did have a TSA-like screening process last time I flew through there back to the US.

        The employees were not TSA employees. They were private employees, were polite, and kept the line moving. Interview, new-style porno scanner, pat-down. I had to take my belt off but I kept my shoes on.

        The guy that interviewed me saw that I was carrying this book (side-note: I found out about the book here. I think John recommended it). He told me he read it during his undergrad years and liked it. He asked me a couple of questions about the book. I told him I had just started the book and that based on my knowledge of the French Revolution, I hadn’t gotten that far into the book to read about the things he asked me about. I mentioned a couple of things I had read. He said, “It’s a great book, I really enjoyed reading it.” I told him I liked it as well. He then asked me a couple of other question, and sent me on to the next step.

        That was two or three years ago.

        1. When I flew back from Australia last year, the only special security for US bound flights was an ID check. Same with Ecuador.

          I’ve been to Bermuda twice. The first time I had to go through a checkpoint in Bermuda Airport manned by TSA employees. This was before the TSA tried using porno scanners. The second time the checkpoint enforced TSA standards but was not manned by TSA employees. I had to take my shoes off but there were no porno scanners. This was in 2013.

  12. When, after 9/11, the GWB administration created 2 new bureaucratic monstrosities: the DHS and the TSA, that was the moment it became clear to me that he didn’t have a “small government” bone in his body.

    “Oh, we have a problem with the intelligence agencies being able to coordinate and share relevant data because they’re too big and unwieldy? I know let’s create a whole new mega bureaucracy to sit over the top of all of them, that’ll fix everything! Because when you have a problem with too much bureaucracy and red tape, the thing to do is add a whole ‘nother layer. Oh, and we’ll fix the airport security issues by taking over security from airports and nationalizing the whole thing so that every airport will have unwieldy one-size-fits-all security that only reacts to whatever ‘the turrists’ have done most recently. That will totally work. We’ll bring the efficiency and efficacy of the DMV to airport security lines everywhere!”

    Only a complete dipshit who’s never a worked a day in their life outside of government would think those are good ideas.

  13. ah, TSA. the grand illusion of “safety”
    didn’t they fail to detect weapons/ tests in a sting operation?
    and any “Terrorist’ worth their salt would remember the “Maginot Line” and explode a “bomb” in the airport lines.
    the same people are there that would be on a plane.

    1. Yes, they did fail. Consistently. Recall that the reason everyone needs to take their shoes off in the airport now is because they missed a shoe bomb that was apparently detected by civilian passengers on the aircraft.

      So they can’t point at any successes, but we can definitely point at their failures yet somehow we’re the crazy ones. Obviously, the ‘correct’ answer is ‘more of what we’ve proven doesn’t work’. Same as it ever was.

  14. The TSA in Denver just announced that they’re understaffed for the busy summer season, so you should start showing up at the airport at least three hours in advance of your flight. What the hell, just make it nine hours. Your time clearly means nothing.

    1. “Your time clearly means nothing.”

      But you won’t catch any TSA employee missing any of his breaks.

    2. There’s really no point to flying anywhere you can drive to in one day. The Mythbusters once did a comparison of driving versus flying from SF to LA. Their one-time test had the flyer arrive a few minutes before the drivers. I won’t speculate on whatever biases that bunch of progressives might have introduced, but I’d like to see them try again with the “TSA factor” fully engaged.

      1. I live in Denver, which makes it tough to visit other populated areas by car. Seven hours of driving gets me to Manhattan….. Kansas.

        1. B.P.- It appears that you are f*cked by geography.

  15. The Archie Bunker solution:

    When people get on the plane, there’s a big basket of guns. Everybody takes one. No-one is going to hijack that plane (successfully) and no airline is going to put the plane out on the tarmac for 4 hours while the passengers have to sit still and take it.


    1. I like the way you think.

      Do you happen to publish a newsletter I could subscribe to?

    2. A) I love your user name.

      B) Just because I don’t trust morons with firearms in an oxygen-rich pressurized environment, I say everyone gets a gun but no one knows which one is loaded.

      Also, just for funsies, I should point out my Father regularly takes his gun onto airplanes. You totally can legally do this, there are just strict guidelines on how to do it properly. Amusingly, this speeds up his boarding and security clearance because it’s essentially an empty line to do this. That being said, if you’re going to go that route you better be damn sure you know exactly what you’re doing since the penalty for doing it wrong is likely going to result in you being arrested at best.

      1. The pressure is actually well below ground level pressure, and the oxygen levels are similarly lower. So no hazard there.

        1. Highly pressurized vs. the external environment then. It’s a comparative thing. The O2 though you’re absolutely right on. I still don’t trust some random asshole to keep their booger hook off the bang switch. Excuse the hyperbole and outright inaccuracy Mr. Jew.

    3. I’ve suggested a variant of this on here at least once: every male between the age of 16 and 60 must show that he is carrying a knife with blade at least 2 inches long prior to boarding. Older men may carry such a knife, and similarly and woman over 16 may too if she wants.

      I AM serious.

  16. Obviously the solution for everyone who complains about being stuck in massive TSA security theater induced delays at airports is to simply become rich enough to charter your own private planes flying out of smaller general aviation airports to avoid the whole thing.

    What could be simpler?

  17. My impression of the TSA is that it has pretty much always been security theater. It isn’t there to make you safer, but to make you believe you’re safer because, if you’re being put through that whole rigamarole, surely something’s got to be better because of it.

    The thing I wonder is, if you really did want to put some sort of security regime in place to prevent terrorism, wouldn’t it be a lot less intrusive? If you wanted to stop terrorists, you’d probably want to avoid them knowing what you do to catch them to prevent countermeasures.

  18. Coming back from Orange County through John Wayne airport, I forgot to empty my water bottle out before getting into the security line. When they found the water, they sent me back out to the pre-security area to dump it in the men’s room. No way could they allow a security breach like me dumping it in a sink drain 50 feet away in the after-security area!

  19. The gropers won’t be privatized anytime soon, but that’s no reason Congress can’t get off its ass and do something about the shit that’s going on right now. I can’t believe that there’s nothing the legislators can do about this other than hold pointless, droning hearings. How could you avoid a positive election year response to getting these toads back to working at full inefficiency? You’d think that among 535 legislators and their army of staffers, somebody could come up with a means of booting these dipshits back to “work”.

    If not, we’re doublepluss fucked.

    Maybe someday a President will say “You’re fired” to a gang of obstructive, entitled layabouts. It’s happened before.

    1. There’s only one presidential candidate using “You’re Fired” as a catch phrase. We’re supposed to hate him, libertarian orders.

      1. Is this the game guy who was against high tariffs before he was for high tariffs? He oscillates so quickly the hum is starting to sound like words. Specifically, words out of Bernie Sanders mouth. I’m sure that just proves he’s a realist or something, but before you were ideologically blinded you would have probably said this means he’s lying.

  20. “You can’t privatize it because no one wants to take on the liability.”

    The world has an infinite number of terrorist targets. We are all, even non-fliers, subsidizing this one.

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