Amidst the vortex of impressions known as social media, some things fail to receive the attention they deserve. When I first saw the above picture of airport security confiscating a toy gun from a cowboy doll, I dismissed it as too absurd to be real. Turns out, as reported by National Review Online, it really happened:
Another gun-wielding toy has had its weapon seized by airport security. After a cowboy sock monkey Rooster Monkburn had his tiny harmless weapon seized last year, a Woody doll underwent similar probe at London’s Heathrow Airport.
Healthrow traveler John Hazen posted a picture of his son’s figurine to the social-media website Reddit on Tuesday showing a security official removing the doll’s gun. “At Heathrow, security just confiscated his ‘weapon,’ keep the world safe boys,” Hazen wrote on the site. The doll does not usually come armed with gun — it was an accessory the family added.
How could anyone be so stupid you ask? In a word, government.
Surely, people make dumb decisions in the market. However, the market quickly checks and balances dumb decisions by subjecting them to the individual judgment of competitors, consumers, and stakeholders – all free to associate or disassociate at will. Government, by contrast, deals in force. It mandates compliance instead of judgment. Ergo, when you tell a security officer to confiscate all guns, he’s going to confiscate ALL guns. Common sense be damned.
Let us imagine a world where government was constrained to its proper role of protecting individual rights. In such a world, functions like airport security would be private, as would airports, air traffic control, and the entire aviation sector. Competitors in that environment would remain incentivized to prevent terrorist attacks and other disasters which would adversely affect their business. It turns out having your customers die in your care does little for your brand.
Sensible security precautions would develop, tempered by the demands of consumers who would vote with their dollars on the best overall solution. No doubt, the security realized in a free market would require some assumption of risk on the part of consumers. But the flip side would be getting your kid’s cowboy doll on-board without triggering a federal case. Market judgment outperforms government edict in the development of best practices every time.