I’ve been somewhat depressed over the airline security bill that just passed, and have been gearing up to post another rant about it today, but the inimitable Professor Reynolds has discovered not just a silver, but perhaps a platinum lining in that particular cloud. I seldom just repost things that he says, since I assume that most of my readers (at least currently) come from there, but this one bears repeating.
His thesis, and it’s a brilliant (and hopefully correct) one, is that this will prove to be a pyhrric victory for the Democrats and other proponents of big government.
…airline security will continue to suck. It will be annoying, and it will be ineffective. The result of the airline security bill is that members of the chattering classes (who travel more than most) will soon deal face-to-face with rude and inept federal employees on every trip. (How do I know they’ll be rude and inept — airline screening pretty much sorts for that: high irritation, no repeat interactions to speak of, heavy boredom combined with high stress, and dealing with a public that’s at its worst.) It used to be that when you lost a bag, or got stuck in line and missed your flight, you blamed the airlines. Now when that happens, people will blame the federal government!
Clever Republicans will position themselves to take advantage of this. They should be thrilled. If these extra federal employees went into some back office in the Department of Agriculture, it would be a pure win for Democrats and the public-employee unions. But here, they’re all in places where their almost-inevitable rudeness and ineptitude will irritate lots of influential people, and their visible positions will make them emblematic of the entire federal workforce! This bill has just created a federal equivalent of the DMV.
I sincerely hope that he’s right. I want to wipe out the terrorist scum as much as the next guy (and in fact, perhaps even more than many), but I’m dismayed by this sudden outpouring of trust in the federal government in the wake of 911, particularly since it’s totally without justification, other than on a limbic level.
What frustrates me most about the press is not that they are sceptical–they’re supposed to be that way, and it’s one of the reasons that the founders wrote the First Amendment–it’s that they’re skeptical about the stupidest things (like the ability of the Pentagon to put the fear of Allah into a bunch of fanatical fools), while ignoring the real issues.
Why aren’t they asking why George Tenet still has his job? Why aren’t they asking why we should trust the FBI to either capture the bad guys, or not abuse the innocent, let alone both, in light of their record of the past (at least) ten years? Why aren’t they questioning the assumption that the federal government is the best repository for our trust in general, and specifically, why the people who were in charge antebellum, should remain in charge now that we have to clean up their mess? Why aren’t they asking why, given that our “disarm the passengers and crew” approach to airline security was clearly an utter failure, they think that stepping up the volume of the same failed policy will somehow succeed, and not drive the final stake through the heart of the airline industry and national productivity?
Why ask why?
I just hope that Glenn is right–it will take a few months to get definitive results from the experiment.