A False Choice Between Self and State

man-mazeThe TSA just released a new rule change: knives with blades less than 2 1/4in long will be allowed in carry on luggage starting in April. What does this have to do with worldview?

Let’s think about the entire picture surrounding security on airplanes for a moment. In the world of flaying safely, there’s us, the fliers, there’s the government agencies that maintain flying safety, and there’s the airlines. The narrative surrounding these three is that “us,” the fliers, have little power, as individuals, to promote or enforce safety in flying. Since the airlines would gladly cheapen their service to the point that flying is no longer safe (because money, not people, is the bottom line), the “us” in the equation needs someone to protect them. To solve this problem, the government steps in, building regulations and enforcing them to make certain the airlines are operating at a minimal safety standard, at least. The airlines hate this interference, because it lowers their profit margins, but the government requires compliance to charge for flying people around.

To put it in other terms:

When presented with almost any social problem (education, health care, poverty, family life, and so on), today’s leaders typically point to one of two possible solutions—a freer market or a stronger state. –Acton

This is the narrative we’ve lived under for the last 50 or 60 years. But there are some questions we can ask about this narrative.

The first is — is it true? The plain answer to this question is no.

There are, in fact, other organizations that could intercede between the airlines and individual people other than a federal regulator or agency.

Families could sue an airline when family members die. No, we don’t want people to die because of poor safety — but government regulation hasn’t entirely prevented all airplane crashes, nor has it really allowed innovation in the area of flying safety, has it?

Churches could exert moral pressure on those who run and operate airlines to operate in a moral way, with the least danger to human life possible.

People could form a loose organization that publicizes safety problems with particular airlines, and encourages people not to fly a particular airline until their safety record improves.

The bottom line is that when we look at something like an airline, and think, “now there’s an industry over which the government must exert strong and consistent control to ensure my safety,” what we are doing is thinking, “there’s only me and the company here; the only way for me to really protect myself is by relying on the government.”

This is a false choice.

It’s a false choice that is costing us our entire social fabric. When we think, “there is no solution to my problem than the state,” what we’re really doing is saying, “my family can’t help me, my church can’t help me, banding together with other consumers can’t help me…” When we turn to the government, we’re really turning away from all these other social structures — ultimately to the point of destroying them wholesale.

If you’re scared of standing alone against an airline, how much more should you be scared standing alone against a much more powerful organization — one that truly has the power of life and death with no recourse?

The more we destroy the other institutions in our society — family, church, and other volunteer groups — the more we stand alone against the state.

Are you really ready to stand against the force of the state alone?

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