Wandering Aramean passes along an idea that I’ve been suggesting for years, that cumbersome security theatre actually kills — wasting time on security that doesn’t make us more secure makes flying less attractive than driving for short-haul destinations. But flying is safer.
When you have to arrive at the airport earlier due to the vagaries of airport security and uncertainty in how long it will take, you may choose to drive short distances because the cost of an airline ticket is no longer worthwhile for the time saved.
More driving means more traffic fatalities, deaths that would not happened had airport security not been so inefficient.
Those are real costs on the table.
Alex Tabarrok covers this issue as well.
Matthew Yglesias adds that the TSA should have to estimate how many planes it thinks would blow up but-for their security measures, in order to be able to provide a real cost-benefit tradeoff decision.
One way of thinking about it is this. If commercial airplanes were no more secure than your average city bus, planes would be blown up as frequently as city buses—which is to say never. I’ve heard some people postulate that terrorists have a special affection for blowing up planes, but I’m not sure that’s right. In the not-too-distant past, Israel had a substantial terrorists-blowing-up-buses problem and had to take countervailing security measures. But unlike Israel, we’re not doing anything to secure our buses. It’s at least possible that nobody blows up American buses because nobody is trying to blow anything up.
This tradeoff of lives lost by having too much security versus not enough doesn’t even factor the loss of liberties from too much security. But it’s a useful addition to how we think about the problem. (One I’ve been asking for for a long, long time so I’m especially happy to see the additional focus.)