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Commentary

Why I Opted Out


     
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First, forgive the absence of links because I’m typing this on my phone on a bus that just pulled out of the Greyhound station in Memphis. As I’m on my way to visit family in Birmingham, as CNN at the bus station was playing reports on possible security gridlock, as TSA officials are urging everyone to go along to get along, and as other commentators are urging people like me to “shut up” and “grow up,” I thought it would be appropriate to offer my reasons for Opting Out.

First, it’s much cheaper and much more convenient to take the bus. The ticket cost less than the cost I would have incurred driving, and I can work en route. I was also able to make it from the entrance of the bus station to my seat on the bus without being molested or asked for my papers at every turn. I don’t have to worry about keeping my seat back and tray table in their full upright and locked positions, and I don’t have to worry about when it is safe to use approved portable electronic devices. At the bus station, I didn’t have to fear prosecution for leaving my baggage unattended for a few seconds while I refilled my coffee. For purposes of getting from point A to point B, this is so much better than flying of driving it isn’t funny.

This post was also interrupted by a phone call from my sister, who was at Target and wanted to know if we needed diapers for the kids. That would never happen on a plane.

Second, and going beyond mere convenience and my narrow focus on economics, Opting Out is a chance to make a statement and to add mine to a growing chorus of voices saying “hold, enough” and “back off.” As I have been writing on this issue, the TSA is an intrusive waste of resources even by it’s own goals and mission. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. An organization that produces a body count invites criticism and resistance.

Third, and finally, justice and the duties of citizenship demand it. The TSA’s insistence on referring to us as “customers” does violence to the language. Anyone who insists on handling my wife and children as the TSA does invites not merely protest, but active resistance. If I were to simply bow my head and say “thank you, sir” as my son or daughter was put through a nude imaging scanner and/or subjected to an “enhanced pat-down” that involved a stranger touching their genitals, I would be failing in my most fundamental duty as their father. I would also be failing as a father and a citizen if I accepted “I’m just doing my job” or “I’m just following orders” as an excuse. I repeat myself: a job that involves molesting children is not a job worth having. Orders to molest children are not orders worth following. If you insist on it, don’t expect passive obedience.

I am a firm believer in non-violence and the power of ideas. Opting Out and speaking out are the best ways to expose this charade for exactly what it is. The TSA isn’t the only government endeavor that invades our privacy, assaults our dignity, and wastes our time and money. It’s just the one that is the most obvious at the moment. For the sake of my friends, my family, and my country, I did my civic duty today. I opted out.

 


Art Carden is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, and Assistant Professor of Economics at Samford University.
Full Biography and Recent Publications






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