A herd, not a pack


All I ask is that the bureaucrats paid to harass me and violate my privacy do it with a bit of irony, and I’m willing to play ball. Irony about the crappitude of the situation gets me in a good mood. Giving orders and pulling the loyal citizen BS gets me in a bad mood.

Still, the good worker and peasant wasn’t as bad as the guy a few years ago who thought that he was apologizing when he said that it’s Richard Reid’s fault that I have to take off my shoes. Look, I’m not generally a fan of going batshit over terrorism, but even I would have to draw the line at letting Richard Reid give orders to the TSA. Yes, his IQ is well above that of most TSA employees, but I still think it sets a bad precedent to let him set policy.

Having a ridiculous reaction to something is not the fault of the person who did it--even if that person is a terrorist attempting horrific acts. I don't mind removing my shoes, particularly--indeed, my parents will testify that they had quite a problem teaching me to keep them on. I achieve minor renown in college for walking around Philadelphia barefoot all summer. But the act of moving in compliant herds through the TSA lines, mindlessly adhering to the most ridiculous procedures the government can think up, contributes to making us what Joseph Schumpeter called "state broken". Citizens should not acquire the habit of following orders with no good reason behind them.

My current obsession, however, is with the bizarre precision of our directives. This weekend, I contrived to accidentally fly to California sans luggage. Upon arrival, I had to spend an outrageous sum of money at Sephora (there being no nearby drugstore) replacing things like moisturizer, in which I was only comforted because the containers were all under four ounces. When I got to the airport to fly home, however, I was informed that the limit was 3.4 ounces, and that my expensively acquired toilette items were destined for the bin. I could, I was informed, check my bag--a suggestion that was made without much hope, since my new carry-on was a Macy's shopping bag.

How, exactly did we pick 3.4 ounces? What substance, exactly, will detonate at 3.5 ounces, but not 3.4--and also not when multiple 3.4 ounce containers are poured into a large receptacle? Such thoughts occupied my mind as I ruefully surrendered my contraband. Which I did not because I am state-broken, but because there was a gun behind the request.