Sunday, June 16, 2013

Easy Pickings: What Americans Will Tolerate For Security

Recent American politics is like all American politics: the organized minority can dominate the unorganized majority.

Brian MacFadden, NYT

The gun lobby has long been organized to stop and push back any and all efforts to manage guns.  The narrow interests of some gun producers plus a well-oiled organizational machine plus a handy set of popular but almost entirely false beliefs produce complete paralysis. 

The contrast is that phone users, internet users and the like are such very big groups of people and, thus far, few big industries in their corner, so that organization/lobbying is pretty much impossible.  McFadden may be right in that the Americans do not mind, but I think it is also that it is hard to organize a group such as "all consumers."  This is why the sugar industry can set up barriers to foreign sugar, which drives up the price of our cheezy puffs, as all of us face the costs of higher cheezy puffs but only a few companies sell sugar.  A lot easier to get the latter in a room than the former.

The only place where this battle between more security/less liberty has really been a fight?  Flying.  Because there are groups representing travelers and there are corporations that are hurt by too much intrusive security stuff.  Still, the security theater at the airports goes on, but efforts to do more have faced pushback.  The best example?  The Secret Service wanted to close permanently Washington National Airport after 9/11, but this would inconvenience Congresspeople and Senators who need to get home regularly (including avoiding NSA briefings to do so). 

Anyhow, the cartoon is interesting, but I have a different causal story than MacFadden's. It is less about tolerance and more about the politics of large groups versus the politics of small groups.

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