Posts tagged Rand Paul

TSA & the Free Society: Are They Compatible?

TSA & a Free Country: Are the Compatible?

Tibor R. Machan

Why does the TSA annoy so many of us? Not having the resources to do a survey, I resort here to what might be called educated speculation. I suspect it is because free men and women consider it invasive for government agents to order them around–pat them down, make them endure electronic surveillance, being ordered around by TSA agents, etc.–unless they give their permission.

Just because someone embarks upon air travel it doesn’t follow that such permission can be inferred, especially if the search is conducted by government agents. If a private carrier states up front that utilizing it will require submitting to various intrusions, there is a difference. People may require of visitors to their homes or business establishments to submit to certain reasonable precautionary measures, say, for hygienic or security purposes. That’s because their home belongs to them and they may impose conditions for accessing it to others even if these others do not quite understand the rationale behind the measures to which they are subjected. They can go elsewhere. But when government imposes such requirements, given the overwhelming force it wields and its monopolistic powers, certain due process provisions must be met. One cannot escape the government since it runs air traffic. Thus, not unless there is solid reason to suspect someone of misconduct or ill will may they be interfered with by the government. Otherwise the policy is arbitrary.

Interestingly, when Senator Rand Paul was subjected to the TSA’s measures on January 23, another issue, apart from due process, arose: the US Constitution disallows interference with the travel by a member of Congress. There is a bit of ambiguity about it, though. Among other things, if such an individual “breaches the peace,” the interference is warranted. Yet, what constitutes breaching of the peace? Simply embarking upon air travel surely does not. So the TSA hasn’t even the legal ability and thus the authority to detain someone like Senator Rand Paul. And arguably it should not have such authority when it comes to citizens who aren’t suspected of any crimes.

I was traveling recently and boarded a flight at Newark Airport in New Jersey and was subjected to the pat down, etc., procedure. I was informed that my right palm tested positive for a substance that had been instrumental in causing the Oklahoma City blast of several years ago. I wasn’t actually shown this, even though I asked, but I didn’t insist since I needed to catch my flight and there wasn’t much time left to do so. I didn’t carry with me any materials of the kind detected on my right palm–I was not checking bags and everything I had was put through the machinery at the security check. Despite this, I was physically patted down by some bloke, something I didn’t welcome but because of their power over me I couldn’t escape. Either I underwent the procedure or I was barred from boarding my flight.

What exactly counts as grounds for suspicion? No clue but maybe by setting off some instrument that’s calibrated some way to detect hazardous substances establishes sufficient grounds. Of course, different people can become suspicious for different reasons, based on their own experiences, knowledge, worries, etc. Risk assessment is certainly not an exact science. Much of it is based on input from experts who have different ways of weighing risks. Here, too, competition is needed to figure out what policy is best.

It is wisest not to forget that levels of fear and concern vary and that here, too, one size does not fit all. So what the TSA selects as decisive in how to measure risk may well be largely subjective. At most the best results will be an inter-subjective assessment. No wonder people feel very uneasy when they are subject to such a wishywashy system.

In this area, too, a competitive market is necessary so as to come up with results that are reasonable. Unfortunately when government manages airport security, this isn’t possible. Too many factors influence the managers and there is little hope for an objective determination or even of one that is at least plausible. Which means that policies will be debated forever and will result in policies that are arbitrary. That is the result of the tragedy of the commons in his area of concern. The king’s intuitions rule but no one can figure out whether they make sense!

Column on Freedom Association & Rights

Freedom of Association and Rights

Tibor R. Machan

A big flaw of the famous 1964 Civil Rights law is that it engages in regimenting who may or must associate with whom in private commerce. Among free men and women no such regimentation by government is permissible even if, to quote one prominent Republican “it is the law of the land.” So is the war on drugs, so used to be laws mandating segregation. Saying something is the law of the land settles nothing at all about whether it should be the law of the land.

We are here not talking about whether those engaged in private commerce ought to do so without racial prejudice. Of course they should. It is immoral to hold it against someone that he or she is of a certain race, for the simple reason that no one has a choice about his or her race. Being black or white or yellow or whatever race or color isn’t either a liability or asset for a human being, any more than being short or tall or a male or a female could be. For some limited purposes it may matter whether one is tall or short–basketball or riding in horse races. But for nearly all other purposes for which people may interact, their race and color are of no significance at all.

Those, however, who think otherwise have a right to do so. Not a legal right, as things now stand in America, but a basic natural-moral right. Which is’t the same as their being right or correct in how they think or act. But freedom entails the right of people to engage in malpractice, both personal and professional. Otherwise one simply isn’t free.

Just compare this to freedom of the press–it means, among other things, that one may not be stopped from speaking and writing morally objectionable material. Those who think otherwise believe in censorship as does Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who said at one time that “There are freedoms, but they can’t contradict our traditions; we must guarantee that freedom of expression agrees with our values.” [From in Christian Science Monitor]

Those who support banning of racial and other immoral discrimination in commerce or elsewhere also believe that the government must guaranteed that freedom of association agrees with certain values. And those values may well be correct. That isn’t the issue here. What is the issue is that when one makes immoral choices about who to interact with and whom to ostracize, this is not open to be banned, not among free men and women.

This issue is timely now that Democrats and mainstream Republicans have finally found something with which to demonize Rand Paul, the libertarian Republican who pulled off a win in Tuesday’s primary election in Kentucky. When Californians attempted to resist federal regimentation of their associations with fellow Americans back in 1964, U. S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White helped cancel their efforts, arguing as follows:

The right to discriminate, including the right to discriminate on racial grounds, [would have been] embodied in the state’s basic charter, immune from legislative, executive, or judicial regulation at any level of the state government [had Proposition 14 (Art. I, Sec. 26) not be held unconstitutional].

Justice White explained that the California law enacted via Proposition 14 “authorized private discrimination,” even though only “encouraging, rather than commanding” it. But what of it? All sorts of bad behavior is authorized on the part of free men and women–their very possibly bad choice of religion, political affiliation, and bad personal choices of all kinds. That is exactly what is entailed in the notion of a right—its exercise, wisely or unwisely, is shielded from others’ interference. Justice White made this evident, albeit disapprovingly, in the following observation: “Those practicing racial discrimination need no longer rely solely on their personal choice. They could now invoke express constitutional authority, free from censure or interference of any kind from official source”. (But how could one freely make a personal choice to discriminate if government has the legitimate power to stop one from doing so?)

Yes, in America, which is now a full blown Nanny State, bad behavior on the part of adults is dealt with by governments as parents are authorized to deal with bad behavior on the part of their children. And Mr. Paul opposes this, to his credit.