02 Dec 2010

PC, Not Profiling

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Ron Ross, at the American Spectator, vents over the insanity of our government’s refusal to use profiling as the basis for airline security.

The Transportation Security Administration’s controversial passenger screening policies demonstrate just how distorted our priorities have become. We have maneuvered ourselves into being more terrified of being accused of racism than we are of death.

Political correctness is the equivalent of a societal lobotomy. Political correctness prevents us from using basic logic and common sense when we make large and small choices. We know what we need to do to make ourselves safer but we’re in denial about what we know.

As John Smith, a columnist for Las Vegas Review-Journal, asked in a recent column, “Patting down my disabled daughter makes us safer?” The answer to that question is no, and everyone knows the answer is no. The obvious absurdity of our policies is the backdrop of why so many travelers are frustrated and angry.

How ridiculous is it to pretend that all passengers have an equal probability of carrying weapons or explosives? Our rejection of profiling is a rejection of behavior that we use so much we lose sight of how essential it is in our lives. The TSA is behaving as if there are no outward signs of a passenger’s likelihood of committing a terrorist act.

Our policy makers are pretending that probability is irrelevant in making choices and designing policies. Taking into account probability is second nature to any normal person. If probability didn’t matter, you might as well go fishing on dry land as on a lake or river.

When we refuse to consider probability we severely reduce the probability of achieving our objectives—in this case preventing the violent deaths of innocent people. Refusal to consider probability in making choices is a symptom of insanity. A strong intuitive sense of probability is an indicator of intelligence.

Political correctness is making us look like fools who don’t even have an instinct for self-preservation.

3 Feedbacks on "PC, Not Profiling"


It has been said that governments should not profile. Maybe not, but private interests most definitely should. Let the screening be done by the airline companies and let them do it however they want. Just make sure that everyone knows the procedures and the rationale used. I’m betting that we will get all kinds of useful and effective new ways to provide security. When government does it it becomes a ‘my way or the highway’ proposition and that stifles any kind of real innovation.


The more pertinent point about safety is this. Resources not being unlimited, every dollar, every minute spent patting down nuns and travelers with 2 million frequent flier miles in their accounts, is time and money that cannot be spent on higher risk travelers.
If you were supervising a police dragnet for a Mafia figure, and you sent proportionate number of cars and officers into Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, would you be maximizing your chances of catching him? Or would you be an idiot?

dub dub

Securing the airspace is clearly one of the major responsibilities of the government we fund. I agree that there appear to be some inefficiencies in how our government performs this role, but of all the services that my tax dollars support I don’t think the TSA is high on my list of wasteful spending. Even if you devise a scheme in which airlines take on the responsibility of screening passengers, the government still must play a role in providing information about major threats, overseeing security measures, etc. Given that the government must have some role, I don’t think there is a simple privatization solution. Even if our assumption that privatization of screening practices would lead to significant efficiency gains is true, we would have to consider the losses in efficiency that might be created by adding a new layer to the chain of security. It would also raise a lot of questions about what level of security information the government should and should not share with private enterprises like airlines. Again, I think there are definitely ways in which airport security can improve, but I don’t think the privatization-creates-competition-which-leads-to-innovation-and-reduces-inefficiencies line of reasoning is particularly compelling in this instance.


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