Thursday, November 18, 2010

TSA - perverts with perverse incentives

In the free market airlines have a financial incentive to offer safe and secure flights, they also have an incentive to make the travel experience as seamless as possible for its customers. Their job should be to find ways of providing security that is invisible to the average customer. This is how most businesses operate. However, airlines are an exception, they have government goons providing their security. These goons don't care if they inconvenience the airlines customers, because they are not paid by the airlines, they are paid by taxes unrelated to whether a person flies on an airline or not. Their goal is not to provide a pleasant flying experience, their goal is not even to provide airline security, they claim they are providing airline security, but the facts are (and they know it) that if the airlines suffer another terrorist attack it will be a boon for the TSA, they will see their funding increase, not decrease after they have been proven to be failures. So they operate on a perverse set of incentives, one to act like they are doing something by making their actions as visible as possible whether or not those actions have any real effect, this harms the consumers, the second incentive is to fail, this harms everyone.

So lately we have seen the kinds of abuses these perverse incentives lead to and expect to hear many more horror stories, and what can you do? Nothing really. You can complain but as long as they are not paid in direct relation to the service they provide there really is little anyone can do, except put some sort of political pressure on those claiming to run the show by exposing the abuses and the stupidity.

I wrote a punk rock song about the TSA, and all of my thoughtful criticism boiled down to the main line “I've got a shiny badge, now let me touch your vag, it doesn't matter what you say because I know that you will still PAY!”

TSA by Flag in Flames

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