A New Fear Factor

Jan. 8, 2002

A New Fear Factor

By Ralph Hood

January 2002

The guvmint gonna take over airport security, and all our problems are solved. Let the good times roll! Power to the people! We shall overcome, and all that! All they have to do now is hire about 30,000 people, train them, and manage them. No sweat. This is, after all, the same group that perfected AMTRAK and the IRS. What have we to fear but fear itself?

Now, let me see if I’ve got this straight. The guvmint entrusted the airlines with security. They didn’t tell them how or what to do; and as far as I can tell, they didn’t set criteria. As the old joke goes, they kinda said, "Y’all be careful now, y’hear?" It worked for years, then we had a disaster which doesn’t seem to be any fault of airport security; and, bingo!, it is instantly obvious that this is all to be blamed on the private sector and the solution is to come from the guvmint.
After all, moan the populace, the system has failed to give us what we wanted. Not true, says I. The system gave us exactly what we asked for, which was cheap tickets. We neither requested nor demanded tight security. In fact, we complained bitterly about the inconvenience of what little security we did get.
The system of guvmint regulation of private employees within the aviation industry has provided the utmost safety when and where safety was asked for and regulated for. Airline mechanics and pilots are privately employed and guvmint regulated, as are airplane manufacturers and airline management. The result has been the safest means of transportation in the history of mankind, bar none. (This system works pretty well with surgeons and nurses, architects, and engineers, too.)
Now we have chosen to substitute an untried system whereby the guvmint is both employer and regulator. I wonder — but do not know — how it will work.
It worries me that we are giving up the very real advantage of having one entity do the work while a separate entity does the inspecting. For that we will substitute a system whereby one entity, the guvmint, will be both performer and inspector. In effect, the guvmint will be inspecting itself. Does this obvious conflict of interest worry anyone else?
When the FAA inspects a Delta maintenance shop, it is pretty much an arms-length situation. The FAA need not fret too much over the cost, inconvenience, and embarrassment of a bad report. An inspector can take an attitude of, as we say in the backcountry, "It ain’t no skin off my teeth. That’s Delta’s problem." Can we possibly maintain that when inspector and inspectee work for the same entity?
Surely a time will (must) come when uncovering a bad situation will make the guvmint look bad. And just as surely there will be at that time the temptation to hide behind a cover-up, at least temporarily. Is there left in this country a person who still believes that the guvmint—and/or those who work for the guvmint—is/are impervious to the temptation to cover up? If so, will they please step forward? I still own a little bit of that oceanfront property in Arizona that I’d like to sell.
I fear we may be about to accomplish something I never thought possible. We might make the old-fashioned idea of regulation and inspection of business by government look downright attractive.